Heat to use COVID-19-sniffing dogs to screen fans at games
MIAMI — The Miami Heat are bringing back some fans, with help from some dogs.
The Heat will use coronavirus-sniffing dogs at AmericanAirlines Arena to screen fans who want to attend their games. They’ve been working on the plan for months, and the highly trained dogs have been in place for some games this season where the team has allowed a handful of guests — mostly friends and family of players and staff.
Starting this week, a limited number of ticket holders will be in the seats as well, provided they get past the dogs first.
“If you think about it, detection dogs are not new,” said Matthew Jafarian, the Heat’s executive vice president for business strategy. “You’ve seen them in airports, they’ve been used in mission critical situations by the police and the military. We’ve used them at the arena for years to detect explosives.”
The first Heat game with ticket holders is set for Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers. Monday is the first day that season ticket holders will be able to start securing their seats.
American Ryan Crouser breaks world indoor shot put record
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Olympic champion Ryan Crouser broke the world indoor shot put record at an American Track League meet in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Sunday.
Crouser tossed the shot put 22.82 meters (74 feet, 10½ inches) on his first attempt to break the mark of 22.66 (74-4¼) set by Randy Barnes on Jan. 20, 1989. Crouser’s record is pending ratification.
The 28-year-old Crouser’s heave went so far that it nearly landed out of the area designed for the competition. He also had another toss that went 22.70 meters (74-5¾).
“It’s a pretty good start to 2021,” Crouser said on ESPN. “I feel like there is more there.”
The American Track League is staging a four-week indoor series at the University of Arkansas over consecutive Sundays. It’s a chance for athletes to see how they stack up in a time when COVID-19 has made finding meets extremely difficult.
Crouser, who trains at Arkansas, will have a chance to break his own record next Sunday.
“First meet, first throw ... usually it’s a rocky start. The consistency is pretty good,” Crouser said on the network broadcast. “For me, it’s a continuation to develop my throw. These are usually things I’d see in June or July.”
Crouser is hoping to defend his Olympic title at the delayed Tokyo Games that are set to begin in July. He also earned the silver medal at the 2019 world championships in Doha, Qatar.
Heading into the meet, Crouser said he was “in good shape to throw far.” His previous best was 22.58 meters (74-1) at a competition in Manhattan, Kansas, on Dec. 5.
With COVID-19 variant positives, Michigan pauses athletics
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The entire University of Michigan athletic department is pausing after several positive tests for the new COVID-19 variant that transmits at a higher rate.
The state Department of Health and Human Services issued the mandate Saturday, with the school saying it follows the positive COVID-19 tests for several individuals linked to the athletic department. The entire department could be in quarantine for two weeks.
The 11th-ranked women’s basketball team was set to play at home against Purdue on Sunday. That was one of four athletic events the school had scheduled. The men’s tennis team was hosting a tournament while women’s tennis was in Atlanta. The men’s gymnastics event at Nebraska was also postponed.
The seventh-ranked men’s basketball team wasn’t supposed to play until Wednesday at Penn State.
“Canceling competitions is never something we want to do, but with so many unknowns about this variant of COVID-19, we must do everything we can to minimize the spread among student-athletes, coaches, staff, and to the student-athletes at other schools,” athletic director Warde Manuel said.
Michigan said it was worked diligently within state and Big Ten guidelines, but the state’s HHS department is mandating a more aggressive strategy for the new variant.
Michigan’s men’s basketball team leads the Big Ten and had four games scheduled in the next two weeks, including a big rivalry game against Michigan State on Feb. 6.
The women’s team currently has its highest AP ranking ever. Ohio State handed the Wolverines their first loss of the season Thursday despite 50 points by Michigan’s Naz Hillmon. The Wolverines were supposed to play six games between now and Feb. 7, including two against Michigan State.
Poirier knocks out Conor McGregor in 2nd round at UFC 257
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Dustin Poirier stopped Conor McGregor with a flurry of punches midway through the second round Sunday, avenging his loss to the Irish superstar with a knockout victory at UFC 257.
Poirier (26-7) caught McGregor with a series of shots to the head before buckling his knees with two left hands. Poirier then sent McGregor to the canvas with a short right hand and finished it at 2:32 of the second, setting off stunned excitement among the few thousand screaming fans allowed inside the Etihad Arena on Yas Island.
“I think this is a title fight,” Poirier said of their lightweight bout. “I’m the champion.”
In his first fight in a year, McGregor (22-5) had a strong first round before he was stopped by punches for the first time in his mixed martial arts career. McGregor, whose previous four losses all came by submission, stayed on the canvas for several moments afterward, gathering himself after his second loss in his three MMA fights since 2016.
“You know, it’s hard to overcome inactivity over long periods of time,” said McGregor, who hadn’t fought since beating Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds last January. “I just wasn’t as comfortable as I needed to be, but Dustin is some fighter. If you put in the time, you’re going to get cozy in here. I have to dust it off and come back, and that’s what I will do. ... I’ll take my licks, but I’m gutted.”
McGregor and Poirier met for the first time in September 2014 as featherweights, and McGregor won by knockout in just 106 seconds during his incredible early-career success. McGregor became the featherweight champion 15 months later, while Poirier rebuilt his career with just one loss in his next 11 fights.
With a second chance to derail McGregor while boosting his own hopes of regaining the lightweight title, Poirier didn’t miss.
“We’re 1-1, so maybe we have to do it again,” Poirier said.
Davis scores season-high 37 in Lakers’ win over Bulls
CHICAGO — Anthony Davis scored a season-high 37 points against his hometown team, LeBron James added 17 points and 11 rebounds and Los Angeles beat Chicago 101-90.
The defending NBA champions improved to 9-0 on the road and a league-best 13-4 overall.
Davis scored 26 points in the highest scoring half by a Laker this season as Los Angeles grabbed a 63-33 lead. The seven-time All-Star shot 14 of 21, hit two 3-pointers, and grabbed six rebounds.
Zach LaVine led Chicago with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Krug scores first goal, Blues defeat Kings
ST. LOUIS — Torey Krug scored his first goal with St. Louis and David Perron added a goal and an assist as the St. Louis Blues defeated the Kings 4-2 on Saturday.
Adrian Kempe and Dustin Brown scored for the Kings, who were playing in their first road game of the season. Vince Dunn and Jaden Schwartz scored the other goals for St. Louis.
Jordan Binnington has started all five games for the Blues and is 3-1-1. He stopped 21 shots.
Kings backup goalie Calvin Petersen made his second start of the season and stopped 25 shots.
Veteran tight end Greg Olsen retires, becoming broadcaster
Veteran tight end Greg Olsen is retiring from the NFL to become a broadcaster.
Olsen announced Sunday that he is ending his 14-year career to join Fox as a game analyst.
The first tight end with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Olsen, 35, played for the Bears, Panthers and Seahawks.
“Proud of what I was able to accomplish in this league, proud of the relationships and everything that the game has given me,” Olsen said on Fox. “But sometimes, when it’s time it’s time, and my time in the NFL now has come to an end. I’m excited for the next chapter.”
A 2007 first-round draft pick by the Bears, Olsen spent his first four pro seasons in Chicago before being traded to Carolina for a third-round selection. It was one of the better transactions the Panthers have made.
In his nine seasons with Carolina, Olsen made three Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl and had 524 catches for 6,463 yards and 39 touchdowns. He also was a team leader for the Panthers.
Olsen spent his final season in Seattle, making 24 receptions and scoring once. Overall, he made 742 receptions for 8,683 yards and 60 TDs.
Eagles hire Colts OC Nick Sirianni as head coach
PHILADELPHIA — Three days after choosing Nick Sirianni to be their new coach, the Philadelphia Eagles made it official.
The team announced Sirianni’s hiring on Sunday, posting on Twitter a photo of Sirianni wearing an Eagles visor and the caption: “Copped ourselves a head coach.”
Sirianni was the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts the past three seasons. He worked under coach Frank Reich, who was offensive coordinator in Philadelphia when the Eagles won the Super Bowl three years ago.
The 39-year-old Sirianni previously served as an assistant coach with the Chiefs and Chargers.
The Eagles fired Doug Pederson following a 4-11-1 season, less than three years after he led the team to the franchise’s only Super Bowl title.
Sirianni worked with Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers in Indianapolis and coached Rivers in San Diego and Matt Cassel in Kansas City. Now he’s tasked with figuring out how to get Carson Wentz back to his 2017 form. Wentz finished third in NFL MVP voting that season and helped the Eagles earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC. He tore two knee ligaments in Week 14 and watched Nick Foles lead the team to victory over New England and earn Super Bowl MVP honors.
Plane crash kills 4 soccer players, club president in Brazil
RIO DE JANEIRO — Four players and the president of Brazilian soccer club Palmas died in a plane crash on Sunday in the northern state of Tocantins, the team said.
The accident occurred when the plane suddenly plunged to the ground at the end of the runway while on takeoff, the club reported in a statement.
The players were on their way to Goiania, in the central region of the country, to play a match against Vila Nova.
Brazilian media reported that the players were traveling in a private plane because they had tested positive for COVID-19, that Sunday would be their last day of isolation, and the rest of the players would travel on a commercial flight.
The victims were identified as president Lucas Meira and players Lucas Praxedes, Guilherme Noé, Ranule and Marcus Molinari, as well as the pilot. There were no survivors, the club said.
Palmas Futebol e Regatas was founded in 1997 and plays in Brazil’s fourth division.
The cause of the accident was not immediately known.
Tocantins fire officials reported that the twin-engine Baron model had a capacity of six occupants. When firefighters arrived at the crash site, 500 meters from the runway, the aircraft was being consumed by fire. At least two explosions were registered, according to the official report.
The Brazilian Football Confederation expressed its solidarity with Palmas’ family members and the club’s fans in an official note, and it ordered a minute of silence in all matches played Sunday as a sign of mourning.
In 2016, a plane crash killed 19 players of the Chapecoense soccer club. Chapecoense’s plane went down en route to the club’s first-ever South American tournament final in Colombia after it ran out of fuel near Medellin.
“Unfortunately, we know what this moment of pain is like and we wish that no other group had to feel the same,” Chapecoense said in a statement. “You won’t go through this alone.”
Alejandro Domínguez, the president of South America’s soccer body CONMEBOL, offered his condolences.
“I deeply regret the plane crash that affected Palmas,” he said on Twitter. “My condolences to all those who make up the club, family and friends at this sad time.”
Yankees get Jameson Taillon from Pirates for 4 prospects
NEW YORK — The Yankees made another high-risk offseason addition to their starting rotation, acquiring right-hander Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday for four prospects.
Pittsburgh received right-handers Roansy Contreras and Miguel Yajure, infielder Maikol Escotto and outfielder Canaan Smith.
Taillon, 29, has not pitched since May 1, 2019, following his second Tommy John surgery.
New York also has a pending $11 million, one-year deal with right-hander Corey Kluber, who has pitched just one inning since his right forearm was broken by a comebacker on May 1, 2019. He tore a muscle in his pitching shoulder in his season debut last season.
They hope to join a rotation headed by Gerrit Cole, Taillon’s former Pirates teammate, and projected to include Deivi García and Jordan Montgomery.
In addition, Luis Severino is expected to return from Tommy John surgery last Feb. 27 and Domingo Germán is expected back from a domestic violence suspension that caused him to miss last season. Rookie Clarke Schmidt, who debuted Sept. 4, and Michael King, who made four starts and five relief appearances last year, also are possibilities.
Hockey Hall of Famer George Armstrong dies at 90
TORONTO — George Armstrong, who captained the Toronto Maple Leafs to four Stanley Cups in the 1960s, has died. He was 90.
His death was announced Sunday by the Maple Leafs, who said he died of heart complications, citing his family.
Armstrong had 296 goals and 417 assists over 21 seasons for the Leafs, including 12 seasons as team captain, and remains the franchise’s leader in games played, variously listed at 1,187 or 1,888. The right wing had 26 goals and 34 assists in 110 playoff games.
Known as the “Chief,” Armstrong was one of the first players of Indigenous descent to play professional hockey.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975. Some 41 years later, Armstrong was voted No. 12 on the franchise’s list of 100 greatest Maple Leafs in its centennial season.
“George is part of the very fabric of the Toronto Maple Leaf organization and will be deeply missed,” Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement.
“A proud yet humble man, he loved being a Maple Leaf, but never sought the spotlight even though no player played more games for Toronto or captained the team longer. Always one to celebrate his teammates rather than himself, George couldn’t even bring himself to deliver his speech the day he was immortalized on Legends Row.”
WTA event added for quarantining players in Melbourne
MELBOURNE, Australia — The Women’s Tennis Association has announced a new tournament in Melbourne for players undergoing a 14-day quarantine without an opportunity to practice ahead of the Australian Open beginning Feb. 8.
The new tournament will be staged from Feb. 3-7 and will cater for players who have not been able to train. A total of 72 players remain in hard lockdown after three chartered flights to the Australian Open returned positive COVID-19 cases.
Two ATP men’s tournaments will be pushed back 24 hours to start on Feb. 1 and the ATP Cup will get underway a day later.
WTA players in hard quarantine include former Australian Open champions Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber as well as 2019 U.S. Open winner Bianca Andreescu.
“This has been a particularly challenging time for the athletes in hard lockdown and we, along with the WTA and ATP, aim to do everything we can to help,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said Sunday.