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Update December 2018


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Australia, India share 1st-day honors at new test venue

Australia's Peter Handscomb bats during the second cricket test against India in Perth, Australia, Friday, Dec. 14. (AP Photo/Trevor Collens)

Ihithisham Kamardeen

Perth, Australia (AP) — Australia and India shared the honors on Friday on the first day of the second cricket test at Perth Stadium, the newest venue in test cricket.

The green-top pitch made it a back-and-forth contest between bat and ball after the home side lost their way following a 112-run opening stand between Marcus Harris (70) and Aaron Finch (50).

Skipper Tim Paine, 16 not out, and Pat Cummins, 11 not out, lifted Australia to 277-6 at stumps in 90 overs after coming together at 251-6.

Four wickets fell in the afternoon, and only a 84-run stand between Shaun Marsh (45) and Travis Head (58) saved Australia from another batting collapse after they had won the toss and decided to bat.

India, forced to play four fast bowlers after offpsinner Ravichandran Ashwin was not able to play due to a pre-match injury, overcame 39 Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) heat to check Australia’s progress with regular wickets.

Swing bowler Ishant Sharma took 2-35 before leaving the field with a suspected side strain after just two overs with the second new ball.

In the absence of Ashwin, Hanuma Vihari, in the side as a batsman having replaced an injured Rohit Sharma, took 2-53 with his off-spin.

Head, who scored 72 runs in Australia's first innings in their 31-run first-test loss in Adelaide earlier this week, once again batted with a new-found confidence before throwing his wicket away. Head slashed at a Sharma delivery and Mohammed Shami at third man took an easy catch.

The Australian slide started when Finch was trapped lbw by pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah following his second half century in four test appearances.

Usman Khawaja (5) top-edged a cut to wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant off swing bowler Umesh Yadav.

Harris' innings ended when he edged Vihari and Ajinkya Rahane took the catch as it bounced off Pant's shoulder. Harris hit 10 fours in his 141-ball innings, playing only his second test since his debut in the series opener in Adelaide.

Vihari had Marsh caught in the slip by Rahane to break the Australian resistance, as Marsh and Head steered the side to a big total.

Earlier, skipper Virat Kohli took a brilliant catch to remove the dangerous Peter Handscomb for seven. Kohli, who had just moved to second slip, flung to his right and grabbed the ball as it flew past him.

"It was a screamer of a catch," said Vihari. "It was a crucial catch. We bowled with a lot of discipline, and we're happy with the way we managed to restrict them."

Finch said the new pitch was challenging as Australia negotiated variable bounce throughout the day.

"It will be an absolute grind for both sides as the game progresses," Finch said. "They controlled the game really well with good bowling and field placing."

The No. 1-ranked India have never won a test series in Australia.

After 48 years and 44 tests, test cricket shifted from the WACA ground to the nearby Perth Stadium, making it Australia's 10th test cricket venue.


Canelo cannot afford slip in Garden bout against Fielding

In this Oct. 17, 2018, file photo, boxers Canelo Alvarez, left, and Rocky Fielding pose for photos at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Barry Wilner

New York (AP) — In an odd way, there is more pressure on Canelo Alvarez when he fights Saturday night against unheralded Rocky Fielding than there was in his two matchups with Gennady Golovkin.

A loss to the WBA super middleweight champion not only could taint his decision over Golovkin this year, it could significantly muddle the future for the Mexican star.

Alvarez moves up from 160 pounds to 168 in search of a third division title, which would place him in special company among his countrymen — only eight others have held three division crowns. That's the quest at Madison Square Garden against Fielding, a heavy underdog despite owning the belt.

"For me it is very big to enter that select group of Mexicans who have become three-division world champions," Alvarez said. "It is what is motivating me. It is very important to enter into that list of very big fighters from Mexico ... to enter history, that is what I want, to make history. Making history, the door is almost open. So I am very motivated to win this fight."

As for moving up in weight but down in class — no one is comparing England's Fielding (27-1, 15 knockouts) to Golovkin — Alvarez insists there are no worries. He's not going to be looking ahead to his 2019 schedule just yet.

"I never like to get overconfident, whether I am the favorite or not," said Alvarez, who is 50-1-2, the only defeat to Floyd Mayweather five years ago, when Alvarez wasn't quite ready for such a master boxer. "To me it is not important who is favored. For boxing, one punch can change everything; anything can happen in the ring. I get my confidence in training for what I can do in the ring."

What he can do in the ring is punch with power, defend with elan, attack quickly or stealthily. It's not likely that Fielding, making his first title defense, has seen anything like Canelo in the ring.

Fielding upset Tyron Zeuge in Germany on July 14 with a fifth-round knockout. This is his shot at the big time at age 31 — sure sounds like a Rocky story.

So while the only time he's seen a sports event at the Garden was a Knicks game three years ago — Alvarez also is making his MSG debut — Fielding isn't letting on if he has any stage fright.

"You know, I went to Germany and no one gave me a chance there," he said with a smile. "It's the same here. No one gives me a chance here, but I've prepared well, I believe in myself. I've come here as a champion."

Alvarez, 28, comes in as a much more heralded champion. Some consider him the best in the business these days, and he's got some impressive victories on his resume. In addition to a win and draw over Golovkin, Alvarez has beaten Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Erislandy Lara, Shane Mosley and Austin Trout. More than a few observers question whether Fielding could handle any of them, let alone Canelo.

But Alvarez is going from middleweight to super middleweight, which can be dicey.

"That's the risk, to be moving up in weight, to fight somebody who is used to fighting stronger fighters, who is used to taking stronger punches," Alvarez said. "I know the challenge, but I like the challenge, and I am happy for it."

Inevitably, Alvarez gets asked about a third bout with Golovkin, considering how close their previous two fights were, and the money and attention that would be there. He doesn't exactly shrug when questioned about it, but it's clear Triple G is not foremost on his mind.

For now.

"It is no secret we want to win this fight and then come back to our division, 160 pounds," he said. "But we can make combinations between 160 and 168. We will see what the future has ... but I can guarantee we will go back to 160 pounds.

"We had two good fights ... maybe in 2019 we can have a third fight. We'll see. Right now, I am 100 percent focused on Saturday. What I do know is I will fight in May and September next year. What I will do is give great fights to the public."

NOTES: The main undercard fight of Canada's David Lemieux against Tureano Johnson has been canceled after Lemieux was hospitalized with dehydration issues while trying to make weight.

A former middleweight champion, Lemieux always has struggled to make the 160-pound limit. But he was in line for a possible fight with Alvarez if he fought impressively on Saturday. In his last fight, he knocked out Gary O'Sullivan in the first round on the Alvarez-Golovkin card in September.


Svindal claims record-extending 7th victory in Val Gardena

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal competes during an alpine ski, men's World Cup super-G, in Val Gardena, Italy, Friday, Dec. 14. (AP Photo/Marco Trovati)

Andrew Dampf

Selva Di Val Gardena, Italy (AP) — Aksel Lund Svindal hasn't felt this good in nearly three years, even though he still has metal support pieces inside his surgically repaired left thumb.

The Norwegian veteran extended his record to seven career victories in Val Gardena on Friday by narrowly edging Italian rival Christof Innerhofer to win a World Cup super-G.

"This is best that I've been since that crash in Kitzbuehel," Svindal said, referring to when his right knee suffered permanent damage in a spectacular fall in the Austrian resort in January 2016.

"Last year I was a little bit stressed because I was not doing very good. I did good in the races (Svindal won gold in the downhill at the Pyeongchang Olympics) but I didn't feel so good," he said. "This year it's just way better than it was last year. To get a full summer where you can do full training without any surgery, the body miraculously heals itself a little bit more."

Not that there haven't been more setbacks. Like when Svindal injured his thumb during a recent training crash, forcing him to tape the ski pole to his glove. It means he can't push of out of the starting gate as much as he would like.

"It's much better," Svindal said. "It's completely stiff because there's metal in it but it's not so swollen anymore. So today the start was fine. There will be surgery sometime in January to take out the metal."

In sub-freezing conditions, Svindal finished 0.05 seconds ahead of Innerhofer and 0.27 in front of Norwegian teammate Kjetil Jansrud.

The 35-year-old Svindal has now won five super-Gs and two downhills on the Saslong course and he can add to his record by defending his downhill title on Saturday.

Svindal recalled how when he first raced in Val Gardena in 2002 his legs were "really, really tired in the downhill."

"So it's nice to see the progression through the years that even though I'm an old guy I'm physically better than I was 16 years ago," he said.

It was Svindal's first win of the season and the 36th of his World Cup career, tying him with retired Austrian racer Benny Raich for seventh place on the all-time list.

"When I started on the World Cup, Raich was one of the favorites," Svindal said. "It's cool."

The victory moved Svindal to the top of both the overall World Cup standings and the super-G standings.

In the overall, Svindal leads seven-time defending champion Marcel Hirscher by 17 points. Hirscher, a technical specialist who did not enter the race, will be expected to reclaim the lead during a stretch of five giant slalom and slalom events over a seven-day span beginning on Sunday in Alta Badia.

In the super-G standings, Svindal moved 19 points ahead of Jansrud.

Competing in his home region, Innerhofer's run prompted large cheers but Svindal came down seven racers later and quieted the crowd.

"It was amazing to cross the finish line and see all the people cheering for me," Innerhofer said. "Without seeing the time I knew i did well. ... I'm happy with my second place."

Svindal trailed Innerhofer by almost a full tenth of a second at the final checkpoint but the big Norwegian found more speed on the steep, finishing turns. With a velocity of 115.3 kph (72 mph), Svindal was significantly faster than Innerhofer at the last speed reading.

Johan Clarey of France posted an impressive fourth-place finish with the No. 50 bib and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde placed fifth to make it three Norwegians in the top five and four in the top 10 with Adrian Smiseth Sejersted eighth.

Olympic super-G champion Matthias Mayer of Austria finished seventh.

American skier Steven Nyman, who was 26th, will be among the favorites in Saturday's downhill on the Saslong, a race that he has won three times — along with Svindal.


Titmus sets world record in short-course 400 freestyle

Gold medalist and new world record holder Australia's Ariarne Titmus, right, hugs USA's Leah Smith after the women's 400m freestyle at 14th FINA World Swimming Championships in Hangzhou, China Friday, Dec. 14. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Hangzhou, China (AP) — Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus broke a second world record in three days, winning gold in the women's 400-meter freestyle at the world short-course swimming championships.

The 18-year-old Titmus finished in a time of 3 minutes, 53.92 seconds on Friday.

The previous world record-holder, China's Wang Jianjiahe, took silver with a time of 3:54.56. Another Chinese swimmer, Li Bingjie, finished third in 3:57.99.

Wang set the previous mark of 3:53.97 at a World Cup meet in Budapest in October.

Titmus broke the 200-meter freestyle short course world record on Wednesday.


Rivers leads Chargers to last-second comeback win over KC

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) attempts a touchdown against Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Eric Berry during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, Dec. 13. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Dave Skretta

Kansas City, Mo. (AP) — Arrowhead Stadium was already emptying by the time Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers jogged to the locker room, triumphantly waving his hand as a satisfying cascade of boos washed over him.

He had finally beaten the Kansas City Chiefs.

It sounded perfect.

Rivers led Los Angeles on a feverish fourth-quarter comeback Thursday night, capped by a debatable pass-interference call, a tense video review of the last touchdown and the gutsy decision to try a 2-point conversion. And for the first time in years against Kansas City, everything turned out perfectly for Rivers and the Chargers in a 29-28 victory that clinched their playoff spot.

"This was big. Here or at home, whatever," Rivers said, "we needed to beat these guys."

The Chargers (11-3) trailed 28-14 when Justin Jackson's touchdown run with 3:49 to go gave them a chance. They quickly got the ball back from Patrick Mahomes and the NFL's highest-scoring offense, and Rivers led a tense final drive that included a fourth-down dart to Travis Benjamin to keep it alive.

That crucial penalty on Kendall Fuller in the back of the end zone gave the Chargers the ball at the 1, and Rivers found Mike Williams along the sideline on the next play. And when his TD catch with 4 seconds left was confirmed, coach Anthony Lynn sent his offense back onto the field.

Williams hauled in the conversion to end five years' worth of frustration.

"We didn't come here to tie. We came here to win. So to me it was a no-brainer," said Lynn, whose team became the first since Minnesota in Week 15 of the 2002 season to win with a 2-point conversion in the final 10 seconds of regulation.

The comeback allowed Los Angeles to forge a first-place tie in the AFC West, though the Chiefs (11-3) hold the tiebreaker with a better division record. More satisfying was the simple fact that Rivers and the Chargers had finally snapped their nine-game losing streak against Kansas City.

They hadn't beaten the Chiefs since 2013, the last year they made the playoffs.

"Oh, it's satisfying," Benjamin said. "We talked about it. We knew it had been a couple years and we wanted to go into this game and change that and we did."

Rivers threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions, and Williams had seven catches for 76 yards and two scores while adding another on the ground. Jackson ran for 58 yards and a touchdown in place of the injured Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler.

Mahomes was held to just 243 yards and two touchdowns for Kansas City, and his inability to pick up a first down in the closing minutes proved costly. The Chiefs forced the Chargers to burn two timeouts on their last drive, but Mahomes was sacked by Isaac Rochell and Kansas City had to punt.

The Chiefs never got the ball back on offense.

"They found a way to win and we didn't," Mahomes said. "You have to find a way in this league."

Hyped by the return of star safety Eric Berry, it looked for a while as if the Chiefs would simply resume their vexation of Rivers at Arrowhead. Steven Nelson leaped to snag a jump ball for a pick on the second play of the game, and Rivers tossed another just before halftime.

Mahomes and Co. took advantage of their early momentum.

Kansas City breezed downfield after Nelson's interception, and the young MVP candidate threw a dart to Demarcus Robinson — while in the grasp of Chargers safety Adrian Phillips — for a 7-0 lead.

Then after a punt, Darrel Williams took a screen pass for his first career touchdown.

The Chargers finally reached the end zone in the second quarter, when Mike Williams caught a short TD pass. But it came moments after wide receiver Keenan Allen hurt his hip while trying to make a leaping grab in the corner of the end zone — he briefly returned before sitting out the rest of the game.

Mike Williams continued to pick up the slack the rest of the game.

After the Chiefs pushed their lead to 21-7 on Damien Williams' touchdown run, the Chargers' big, rangy wide receiver answered with a 19-yard end-around for a score. And when then Chiefs went on another methodical scoring drive to take a 28-14 lead with just over 8 minutes left in the game, Mike Williams helped to lead the Chargers to an answering touchdown to stay in the game.

He made two more big catches in the final seconds to put them over the top.

"Everybody needed to come together and make plays," Mike Williams said, "and that's what we did.

TONY G'S AWARD

The Chiefs added TE Tony Gonzalez to their Hall of Fame at halftime. The six-time All-Pro played his first 12 seasons with the Chiefs before finishing his career in Atlanta. His name was unveiled next to that of WR Carlos Carson on the ring of honor inside Arrowhead Stadium.

INACTIVE STARS

Gordon (knee) tried to warmup before telling Lynn he couldn't play, joining Ekeler (concussion) on their inactive list. The Chiefs were missing RB Spencer Ware (hamstring) and WR Sammy Watkins (foot).

INJURIES

Chargers: Allen received treatment on the sideline after nearly making his spectacular TD catch, and he returned briefly before slowly walking off. He left for the locker room and did not return.

UP NEXT

Chargers: Return home for a prime-time game against the Ravens on Dec. 22.

Chiefs: Visit the Seahawks for another prime-time game Dec. 23.


Wilder and Fury step up in heavyweight title fight

In this Oct. 2, 2018 file photo Tyson Fury, left, and Deontay Wilder face off during a news conference in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Tim Dahlberg

Los Angeles (AP) - Just how well Deontay Wilder's heavyweight title defense Saturday night against Tyson Fury in Los Angeles will do at the box office is a question mark. For all the power in his right hand, Wilder is still trying to build his brand and Fury is largely an enigma in the U.S.

What it means for boxing's most prestigious division, though, is easy to quantify.

The winner gets a glittering championship belt, of course, that signifies he is the baddest man on the planet — at least in the parts of the planet that currently recognize Wilder as the reigning heavyweight champion. And that's still a big deal because even though the heavyweight division hasn't been good in recent times, it's brimming with talent right now.

But the real prize will likely come sometime next year, assuming common sense prevails as it often doesn't in boxing. That means a fight matching the Wilder-Fury winner with Anthony Joshua, the British puncher who currently holds the other parts of the title, in a pay-per-view fight that would do massive numbers.

The best fighting the best, like the heavyweights of another era used to do all the time. And no better way to start it off then with an intriguing showdown at Staples Center between two undefeated fighters who both have their eye on a bigger prize.

"The most important thing is that we all fight each other and give the boxing fans of our era something to talk about," Fury said. "It would be a crying shame to not fight each other and all get in the mix. Who's the best, we'll all find out when we all fight each other."

Wilder will be defending the WBC version of the title he holds against Fury in a fight no one was really talking about until it was made. That includes Wilder, who has campaigned hard for a unification fight with Joshua, even offering him a $50 million purse at one point to try to get it done.

But Joshua has his own timetable, and with the fan base of an entire country behind him in England, he has the luxury of picking and choosing just who he fights and when.

So, when he ignored Wilder, the American went looking elsewhere — and found a willing dance partner in Fury, who stakes a claim of his own to the heavyweight title after beating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.

"I feel whoever wins this can call themselves the best heavyweight champion in the world," Wilder said. "Let's face it, we don't have to keep going over this over and over again about Anthony Joshua. They had their opportunity, they had their chance."

Indeed, there should be no reason to talk much about Joshua this week. Wilder and Fury deserve to be center stage, if for nothing else than because both are willing to fight each other.

Wilder is a legitimate heavyweight champion, a 6-foot-7 former Olympic medalist who hasn't lost in 40 fights and possesses freaky power in his right hand. He won't win any points for a boxing style that can be charitably described as awkward, but he has knocked out all but one of his opponents — including Luis Ortiz, the powerful former Cuban he flattened his last time out in March.

Fury, meanwhile, is even bigger at 6-foot-9, boxes like a middleweight, and has won all 27 of his fights. But he stepped away from the ring after beating Klitschko for the title and ballooned to nearly 400 pounds while binging on beer and cocaine. He said he was in a deep depression that has now lifted, but will be fighting for only the second time in his comeback.

Oddsmakers make Wilder the 9-5 favorite, but there are legitimate questions about both men that still have to be answered. By the time they're finished with 12 rounds or less the heavyweight picture should be in clearer focus and the winner should have a clear path to Joshua.

This is boxing, of course, so anything can happen. But it would be hard for Joshua to keep claiming he's the best if he doesn't fight the best.

In the meantime, boxing fans will have to be content seeing just two who might just be the best.


IOC President Bach lavishes praise on suspended Sheikh Ahmad

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach delivers a speech during the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) general assembly in Tokyo Thursday, Nov. 29. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Stephen Wade

Tokyo (AP) — Sheikh Ahmad al Fahad al Sabah, who has stepped away temporarily from the presidency of an Olympic umbrella group to fight a criminal court case in Switzerland, was praised by IOC President Thomas Bach on Thursday.

"We have said, first of all, that we respect the decision he took under his own will and we recognize that this decision, his decision, was taken in the interests of all of us," Bach told 1,400 delegates of the Association of National Olympic Committees.

The Kuwaiti sheikh last week also suspended himself from his 26-year membership in the International Olympic Committee in order to fight the corruption case.

He has said he's innocent and says the case is "politically motivated."

ANOC senior vice president Robin Mitchell will serve as the acting president. Mitchell said he had no idea how long that would be for.

Sheikh Ahmad is accused by Geneva public prosecutors of forgery in an alleged faked arbitration case involving four others.

"We hope we can see him back here very soon after his case is solved," Bach told delegates, who applauded warmly.

Many credit Sheikh Ahmad with swinging votes to get Bach elected in 2013.

Bach also lectured the delegates about the need for good governance: "Maybe you don't want to hear it anymore. But I will not get tired of repeating it with regard to good governance: What affects one of us affects all of us."

The IOC has been hit with embarrassing corruption cases. Sheikh Ahmad is the third IOC member recently to be suspended — or self-suspended. A fourth, honorary member Carlos Nuzman who headed the 2016 Olympics, is also suspended.


NBA making a 'long-term play' in Africa

In this Aug. 4, 2018 file photo, Team Africa's Joel Embiid throws balls to fans during the NBA Africa Game between Team Africa and Team World, at the Sun Arena in Pretoria, South Africa. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Ken Maguire

Saly, Senegal (AP) — Timothy Ighoefe is an intimidating defender at 6-foot-11 and 245 pounds. Still, the Nigerian knows he must improve if his decision to play basketball instead of soccer is going to pay off and take him to the NBA.

The 18-year-old Ighoefe has committed to play for Patrick Ewing at Georgetown University next season, only three years after switching to basketball in his hometown of Lagos.

"I need to work on my speed, running down the floor baseline to baseline," Ighoefe said this week at the unveiling of a new training facility at the NBA's African academy in Senegal. "My left hand, I need to improve, to finish with my left hand."

In other words, there's potential but it's a work in progress — just like Africa itself for the NBA.

"It's a continent with over a billion people, with a fast-growing economy, fast-growing young urban population. That's a good recipe for the NBA long term," said NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, also in Senegal for the training facility opening.

The NBA has big plans for Africa. An office was established eight years ago in South Africa. There's an annual exhibition game featuring NBA stars.

Now, the NBA's top brass says Africa is ready for more. Tatum said they're creating a pan-African league that will involve existing professional clubs, and that NBA pre-season and regular-season games will be held on the continent "in the next couple of years."

Another step is the new training center, built on the campus of a soccer academy in a coastal resort town 45 miles south of the Senegalese capital Dakar. Saly, a former Portuguese trading post, is now a getaway spot for Dakar's upper class and is home to many French people.

The two parquet courts were imported from the United States. Simply being indoors and with air conditioning probably makes it the best basketball facility in Senegal. A fabric, tent-like covering is stitched together over steel trusses, and repurposed shipping containers facing the courts are used for weight training.

The academy is one of seven around the world, with three of them in China. It features fulltime schooling and training. It can accommodate 24 boys selected from English- and French-speaking African countries. The NBA holds camps for elite African girls, but there's no center for them yet.

"All you have to do here is just focus on basketball and school," Ighoefe said. "You don't have to be worried about anything else. In Lagos, it's different. There are a lot of distractions."

The teenage boys begin their days with a light workout at 5:30 a.m. Then it's breakfast, school, lunch, school, gym. They're coached by former NBA and NCAA players and have traveled to Australia, Europe and the United States for tournaments.

Amadou Gallo Fall, NBA vice president and managing director for Africa, said the NBA is building from the grassroots, like the Jr. NBA programs expanding across the continent.

"We are only scratching the surface," said Fall, a Senegal native who founded the nearby SEED Academy, which works closely with the NBA's African operation. "We are empowering young people through basketball and in the process elite talent is going come out and get into the NBA, and also feed other leagues across the world, and our future league on the continent."

This season began with 13 African-born players on NBA rosters.

Tatum said details of the pan-African league will be announced within months. It will involve co-operation from FIBA and existing professional leagues, he said.

"We're trying to find a way to do it quickly, to be able to work with some of those leagues, to work with our partner FIBA, to get something up and running sooner rather than later," Tatum said.

Africa lacks good infrastructure, but Tatum cited the new Dakar Arena, as well as Rwanda's plan for a new facility, as incentive for the NBA to bring games here. He called the Dakar Arena a "world-class facility" but wouldn't confirm the Senegalese sports minister's announcement moments earlier that it would host the NBA exhibition game next year.

South Africa hosted the first three NBA Africa exhibitions but West African countries like Senegal and Nigeria appear more eager to embrace basketball.

Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Africa. The likes of Liverpool and Barcelona boast fan clubs all over the continent, and the European start times make it easier to watch live.

Ighoefe catches highlights of his favorite player, Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, on the mornings after games. He watches on YouTube and follows the Cameroonian star on Instagram.

African kids can play soccer with just a ball and any bit of space, even a street. But finding a basketball court, even just a cement half-court and a rim, is hard.

Ibrahima Ndiaye, director of Flying Star academy in Dakar, which has produced several NCAA Division 1 players, said the NBA can dramatically increase youth participation by building courts — a lot of them.

"That's what is needed here in Africa to develop basketball in all neighborhoods," Ndiaye said in a phone interview. "We need more and more usable infrastructure. It's the only way to increase the number of kids who practice."

China is a huge success for the NBA, so it's often compared to the league's initiatives in Africa.

"We've been in China for 30 years," Tatum said, adding some perspective. "We opened up our office here on the continent, in South Africa, only eight years ago."

Tatum said that figure of 13 African players on NBA starting rosters could double within a decade.

"For us," he said, "it's a long-term investment and long-term play."


Norwegian, US skiers share tips for speed

Norway's Kjetil Jansrud skis down the course during a Men's World Cup downhill skiing training run Wednesday, Nov. 28, in Beaver Creek, Colo. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

Pat Graham

Beaver Creek, Colo. (AP) — The Norwegians reveled in teammate Kjetil Jansrud's super-G win last weekend at Lake Louise.

So did the Americans. Not to the same extent, obviously — "they win a lot," downhiller Jared Goldberg cracked — but Jansrud's speedy performance at least showed the U.S. men's squad they're on the right track.

The two countries have become partners in training the last few seasons. The Norwegians bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and another level of seriousness to the hill. The Americans add a top-level training facility, more coaches on the course to relay information and a different level of playfulness.

In the end, the two nations speak precisely the same language — speed.

"Having them around, it's awesome," said U.S. racer Travis Ganong, who finished 1.87 seconds behind the top time turned in by Otmar Striedinger of Austria during a World Cup downhill training session Wednesday. "Having the Norwegians on the hill elevates our level. When we're training with our group, we joke around and have a lot of fun. We're not always pushing that hard. It's nice to bring in the Norwegians to help us push hard. Hopefully, it helps them, too, to have this cooperation."

It definitely does. Especially early in the season, when the Norwegians gain access to the U.S. ski team's speed center at Copper Mountain, Colorado — a well-manicured 2-mile track where they can cruise up to 80 mph. Along with it, U.S. coaches who can relay information.

"When we wanted to work with someone, we wanted to work with the Americans," said Norwegian standout Aksel Lund Svindal, who was third in training at Beaver Creek. "It tells you something about the way they work — it's fairly similar to the way we work. It just fits better together than some other teams."

Even on training days, Svindal, Jansrud and the rest of the small but tight-knit Norwegian group treat everything like a podium spot might be on the line.

"We have high standards of what we bring to training as well as with energy," Jansrud said. "We go hard."

No exceptions. And break training protocol — you will get warned.

"That's probably why the Americans think we're a little (uptight), they see us calling each other out," said Svindal, who's recovering from a left thumb injury that forces him to tape the pole to his glove. "It's important to stick to the training program. If you don't, you lower the standards."

This is an intensity the Americans are taking to heart.

"The Norwegians take care of the tiny details very well. Being surrounded by that, you pick up on that," American Bryce Bennett said. "Not that their team is way better than ours or we're way worse, but it's a good team to be paired with."

The American downhiller squad did a very Norwegian-like thing this summer: A group of them got together for a bonding session in Malibu, California. They were put through a series of activities run by former Navy SEALs. One of the tasks was carrying logs over their heads and up a sand hill, then locking arms as they waded into the surf to get pummeled by waves. They did this over and over.

"They try to get us to feel uncomfortable and be able to push past that uncomfortable state," Goldberg said. "We got our butts kicked. But it was beneficial."

The collaboration with the Norwegians could help the U.S. unlock more speed. The Americans are searching for their first World Cup downhill victory since Ganong in January 2017.

Meanwhile, the Norwegians are notoriously fast on the hill in any race: Svindal and Jansrud have a combined 126 World Cup podium finishes and nine Olympic medals.

Keep up with them — along with Aleksander Aamodt Kilde — on training days and it's a safe bet that it could show up on race day.

That's the aim, anyway.

"I'm fast in training against those guys, but World Cups are a different beast. It takes time to catch up," Goldberg said. "But you can work on your own stuff and say, 'OK, this is how the best guy in the world would go over this terrain, I probably should consider that way, too.' It eventually will lock into your skill-set more."

One word of caution: Don't try to be like the Norwegians.

Learn, yes. Overhaul your style, no.

"Having the Norwegians around, it can be highly beneficial and can be also confusing to some guys," American Steven Nyman said. "We're skiing with Aksel. We're skiing with Kjetil. Their accomplishments are so supreme. They've done so much. To learn from them is super important. But don't change who you are."
 


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