Update on the latest sports
Hawks fire Pierce as coach following disappointing start
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce has been fired following a slow start to a season of heightened expectations. Hawks president Travis Schlenk announced the move Monday in a short statement released by the team.
The Hawks are 14-20 and 11th in the Eastern Conference, following a 109-99 loss at Miami on Sunday night. The teams play again in Miami on Tuesday. Schlenk says the move, which comes less than a week before Atlanta hosts the All-Star Game, is timed to help the team enjoy a second-half resurgence. Pierce, hired in 2018, was 63-120 (.344) with the Hawks. He missed the playoffs in each of his two completed seasons.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL-NIT-MOVING TO TEXAS
NIT moves 2021 event to Texas, interrupting 83-year NY run
DALLAS (AP) — The NIT is moving the entire 2021 event to Texas, taking the semifinals and championship game out of New York’s Madison Square Garden for the first time in the 83-year history of college basketball’s oldest postseason tournament.
The pandemic is also reducing the field to 16 teams from the usual 32. All games are set for two venues in the Dallas area. First-round games will be played March 17-20, with the quarterfinals March 25. The semifinals are set for March 27, followed by the championship game the next day. Last year’s event was canceled because of COVID-19.
Michigan takes number-2 spot
UNDATED (AP) — Michigan has finally broken the stranglehold of Gonzaga and Baylor atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, taking advantage of the Bears’ loss at Kansas to leap into the No. 2 spot behind the Bulldogs.
Illinois climbed one spot to fourth and Iowa gave the Big Ten three teams in the top five. West Virginia continued its steady climb, up four spots to No. 6 after its third straight win. Ohio State fell three spots to seventh after losing to the Hawkeyes. Alabama, Houston and Villanova rounded out the top 10.
Oklahoma State, Purdue and Colorado joined the poll while Southern California, Tennessee and Missouri dropped out.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Washington State-Arizona State game canceled
UNDATED (AP) — The men’s basketball game between Washington State and Arizona State scheduled for Monday has been canceled due to COVID-19 issues in the Cougars’ program.
Arizona State won 77-74 in overtime when the teams played on Saturday, but a Washington State player tested positive for COVID-19 Monday morning.
The game had been rescheduled from earlier in the season due to coronavirus issues at Arizona State.
The Sun Devils close out the regular season against Colorado and Utah this week.
Watt signs with Cardinals
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — J.J. Watt has agreed to a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals. The team announced the deal with the free-agent edge rusher on Monday.
Watt was released last month by the Houston Texans, for whom he won three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards. The 31-year old Watt has been one of the NFL’s best players for a decade, but asked out in Houston, which is undergoing a roster upheaval. Watt joins another former Texans star, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, in Arizona. Hopkins was acquired by the Cardinals in a one-sided trade a year ago.
In other NFL news:
— The Kansas City Chiefs expect Patrick Mahomes to be ready for offseason workouts following surgery on his toe, and they are optimistic that offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz could be available for the start of training camp. Mahomes had surgery on Feb. 10, shortly after the Chiefs were walloped by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl, to repair a turf toe injury that had hobbled him throughout the playoffs. Fisher had surgery for the Achilles tendon he tore in the AFC title game while Schwartz recently had back surgery.
In-game video returning to baseball for 2021
UNDATED (AP) — Major League Baseball has cleared the way for the return of in-game video on dugout iPads beginning on opening day, with catcher signals obscured by a computer program.
For decades, baseball players retreated to a clubhouse video room to check out their at-bats or take a closer look at a reliever coming into the game. But that practice was prohibited in 2020, contributing to a down year for offense during the pandemic-shortened season. Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who opted out of last season because of COVID-19 concerns, calls video “a huge part of the game.”
In other MLB news:
— Washington Nationals slugger Juan Soto had to sit out the team’s exhibition home opener because he fouled a ball off his right foot a day earlier. Manager Dave Martinez said the 2020 NL batting champion originally was scheduled to play Monday against the Houston Astros. But then the mishap happened during live batting practice Sunday.
— The New York Mets will honor the late Tom Seaver by wearing a “41” patch on their home and away jerseys this season. The Mets say they’ll pay tribute to the Hall of Fame pitcher by putting his number on the right sleeves of their uniforms. Seaver died Aug. 31 at age 75. The right-hander is the Mets career leader in wins, ERA and strikeouts. He earned three Cy Young Awards with the Mets and pitched them to their first World Series championship in 1969. The Mets plan to unveil a Seaver statue at Citi Field this year.
— Vi Ripken, matriarch of the famed Orioles family that includes Hall of Fame son Cal Ripken Jr. and once the victim of a bizarre kidnapping, has died. She was 82. Family spokesman John Maroon said she died Friday, a day before her birthday. Violet and Cal Ripken Sr. married in 1957 and he managed in the late 1980s, when sons Cal Jr. and Billy played for him.
Federer won’t play in Miami
MIAMI (AP) — Roger Federer’s agent tells The Associated Press the 20-time Grand Slam champion is withdrawing from the Miami Open so he can spend extra time preparing to “work his way back out on tour.”
Federer has not competed in more than a year after having two operations on his right knee during last season. He is scheduled to make his return to the tour next week at Doha, Qatar.
Federer had been on the entry list for the Masters 1000 stop in Miami that starts March 24. But his agent, Tony Godsick, wrote Monday in an email to the AP that Federer will not play there.
Federer turns 40 in August.
HORSE RACING-TRAINER-DEAD HORSE
Trainer banned from entering horses while photo investigated
UNDATED (AP) — The image of Grand National-winning trainer Gordon Elliott seemingly posing for a photo while sitting on a dead horse has provoked horror and and led to the Irishman being banned from entering runners into British races while he is investigated by Irish authorities.
Elliott has apologized while confirming the authenticity of an undated photo that was shared across Twitter showing him sitting on a horse that had just died of a heart attack.
Bookmaker Betfair dropped Elliott as an ambassador saying his actions were not consistent with its “values.”