The New Orleans Pelicans say top overall draft choice Zion Williamson left the club on Thursday to attend to an urgent family medical matter. The Pelicans say Williamson intends to rejoin the team in the Orlando area for the resumption of the season, but they did not specify when he would be able to return or whether he’ll miss any games. “We don’t know anything right now from the standpoint of him coming back,” coach Alvin Gentry said after practice Thursday night. “Obviously, right now, we’re not concerned about the basketball part for him. We’re just concerned about his family.” Williamson will have to quarantine again when he returns to Central Florida, a period that will last at least four days and could be significantly longer if he is not tested daily during his absence from the team.“Once we learn more about Zion’s specific circumstances, we will determine his reentry protocol based on our rules,” NBA spokesman Tim Frank said. The Pelicans resume the season on July 30 against Utah, followed by a match-up with the Los Angeles Clippers two days later. “We fully support Zion’s decision to leave the NBA campus to be with his family,” Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin said. “Out of respect for the Williamson family, we will have no further comment at this time.” Williamson, who starred for one season at Duke, has averaged 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 19 games this season after missing the New Orleans’ first 44 games while recovering from preseason arthroscopic knee surgery … NBA scoring leader James Harden of the Houston Rockets practiced with his team for the first time in more than four months, saying his arrival at the league’s restart bubble at Walt Disney World was delayed by family issues. Harden came to Disney earlier this week, satisfied his league-mandated quarantine requirements and got cleared to participate.
Senator won’t have to sell
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league has no plans to insist that Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a Republican US senator running for re-election in Georgia, sell her stake in the team. “We’re not going to force her to sell her ownership,” Engelbert said in an interview on CNN. “She is not a current governor, she is not involved in the day-to-day (operations), and we are aware there are interested parties who want to purchase the team. We have a Board of Governors —she has not served as a governor since she became a senator, so since October of 2019.” Loeffler objected to the league’s initiatives to honor the Black Lives Matter movement, asking the league commissioner to scrap plans for players to wear warmup jerseys with “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” and instead put an American flag on all uniforms and apparel.
Rodriguez in favor of salary cap
Alex Rodriguez, among four groups of bidders for a possible purchase of the New York Mets, called for baseball players to accept the type of revenue-sharing system that is tied to a salary cap and sparked quick opposition from the union. Following the collapse of labor talks dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, relations between Major League Baseball and the players’ association are at the lowest point in a quarter-century. The sides appear headed to a spring training lockout in 2022. Rodriguez said baseball players’ leverage had changed since they fought off the owners’ salary-cap proposal with a 7½-month strike in 1994-95. He said the rise of the NFL and NBA had changed the equation along with digital media, and said the players’ association should work collaboratively with MLB to raise the sport’s market share. Baseball players have resisted the types of salary cap and revenue sharing used by the NFL, NBA and NHL. “Alex benefited as much as anybody from the battles this union fought against owners’ repeated attempts to get a salary cap,” union head Tony Clark said in a statement. “Now that he is attempting to become an owner himself his perspective appears to be different. And that perspective does not reflect the best interests of the players.”
Tanaka throws 30-pitch session
Masahiro Tanaka threw a 30-pitch bullpen session in his first mound appearance since he was struck by a line drive off the bat of New York Yankees teammate Giancarlo Stanton on July 4. The 31-year-old righthander remains uncertain for his first turn through the rotation. New pitching coach Matt Blake said Tanaka reached 88-91 miles per hour and threw all his pitches. Tanaka is slated for another bullpen session Sunday, then is to face batters early next week … New York Mets second baseman Robinson Canó is back with the team after missing a couple days because of personal issues. The 37-year-old Canó said he wants to keep the reasons for his absence to himself. He is hoping to be ready for opening day when the Mets host the Atlanta Braves on July 24 … Star third baseman Yoán Moncada has rejoined the Chicago White Sox after missing the start of their summer camp. Moncada and pitcher José Ruiz were placed on the 10-day injured list last week because of unspecified ailments. While Moncada is in major league camp and Ruiz is going to work out at the team’s taxi-squad site in Schaumburg, the White Sox says it doesn’t mean they have been taken off the IL.
Coaches want to eliminate testing
Men’s and women’s college basketball coaches are proposing the NCAA eliminate standardized testing requirements from initial-eligibility standards, calling exams such as the SAT and ACT “longstanding forces of institutional racism.” The proposal came out of the new committee on racial reconciliation formed by the National Association of Basketball Coaches in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice initiatives. The committee is chaired by South Carolina coach Frank Martin and Harvard coach Tommy Amaker. Martin and Amaker said in a joint statement that standardized tests “no longer have a place in intercollegiate athletics or education at large,” and that eliminating them would be “an important step towards combating educational inequality.”
Real Madrid takes Spanish league title
Real Madrid clinched its first Spanish league title in three years after extending its perfect run following the pandemic break. Madrid secured its record 34th league title with a 2-1 win over Villarreal, opening a seven-point gap to second-place Barcelona with one round to go. Barcelona lost to 10-man Osasuna at the Camp Nou Stadium. Karim Benzema scored twice to give Madrid its 10th consecutive league victory. It is the only team with a perfect record after the coronavirus-enforced break, having trailed Barcelona by two points before the league was halted. Barcelona star Lionel Messi blasted his team for being “weak” and said it must quickly change course to have a chance at winning the Champions League. “This game represents the entire year. We have been an erratic and weak team,‘' Messi said in a rare TV interview just after the final whistle sounded at an empty Camp Nou. “Madrid did its part by winning all its matches, which is impressive, but we also helped them to win this league. We have to be critical of how we have played, starting with the players, and the rest of the club.”
Akinola’s three goals lift Toronto
Ayo Akinola scored three goals and Toronto FC beat Canadian rival Montreal, 4-3, in the Major League Soccer is Back tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Akinola leads all players in the tournament with five goals. The teams combined for five goals in the opening half of the wild game played without fans at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World. Saphir Taider converted two penalty kicks for the Impact … Frankie Amaya scored his first career MLS goal in the 76th minute to give Cincinnati a 1-0 victory over Atlanta United. United was playing a player down after Jake Mulraney was sent off in the 26th minute with his second yellow card.
Serena Williams to return in August
Serena Williams is planning to make her return to competition at a new hard-court tournament in Kentucky next month. It’ll be the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion’s first action since playing for the US in the Fed Cup in February, before all sanctioned tennis was shut down the next month because of the coronavirus pandemic. The women’s and men’s professional tennis tours are scheduled to resume in August. The Kentucky event, called the Top Seed Open, announced that Williams and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens will be in the field when play begins there Aug. 10 … The Tennis Integrity Unit fined and suspended a Belarusian chair umpire and a Greek tournament director for match-fixing and betting offenses at an ITF Women’s event in Minsk, Belarus in November 2019. Umpire Alexey Izotov was suspended for three years and fined $10,000 for failing to report a corrupt approach and of soliciting other umpires to become involved in manipulation of match scoring. Tournament director Antonis Kalaitzakis was suspended for 20 months and fined $6,000 after admitting to betting on tennis and failing to report knowledge or suspicion of corruption to the Tennis Integrity Unit.
Saratoga off and running
A thoroughbred horse racing season like no other in Saratoga Race Course’s long history began Thursday under a gray sky, with jockeys wearing masks, a smattering of fans trying to peer through fencing to at least get a glimpse of the horses, and management hopeful of something good in spite of the new coronavirus. The New York track has 71 stakes races on the schedule worth $14.45 million, down from last year’s totals of 76 and nearly $21 million in purses. That’s a direct result of the impact of the pandemic … Promising young boxer Travell “Black Magic” Mazion was killed when his car slammed head-on into an oncoming car on a highway near Austin, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Mazion, a junior middleweight prospect, was 17-0 with 13 knockouts. His last fight in San Antonio at the Alamodome in January. He was nine days shy of his 25th birthday …Two-time Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor is the president of The Athletics Association, which is seeking more say in key decisions made by the leaders of track and field. Taylor and steeplechaser Emma Coburn, the association vice president, are among those who saw their events cut out of most Diamond League meets this year. The association’s top-listed goal is to “offer suggestions and alternatives that would include all stadium disciplines.” It also plans to offer courses on financial literacy and life after sports.