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James Harden finally practices with Rockets amid offseason trade turmoil

James Harden (left) is reportedly looking to follow Russell Westbrook (right) out of Houston.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

James Harden practiced with the Houston Rockets for the first time this season after missing the early part of camp while talk swirls that the high-scoring star wants out. Harden, who reported to camp late amid reports he is looking to be traded, was absent for Houston’s first two preseason games as he went through the NBA’s COVID-19 testing protocols. Rookie coach Stephen Silas, who said he spoke strictly about basketball with Harden on Monday, added that Harden will make his preseason debut Tuesday night when the Rockets host the Spurs. The Rockets traded Russell Westbrook to Washington for John Wall and a first-round pick on Dec. 2 to cap a short offseason that was plagued by rumors that both Westbrook and Harden wanted to leave Houston … The Orlando Magic plan to have 4,000 fans in seats for regular-season games, with strict adherence to social distancing and other health protocols. For now, the 4,000 attendance maximum is the largest known figure in the NBA to start the season. Many teams will start with no fans; others are capping at figures like 300 in Cleveland and 1,500 in Utah.


Indians set no timetable for name change

Cleveland Indians owner Paul Dolan confirmed that after months of internal discussions and meetings with groups, including Native Americans who have sought to have the team stop using a moniker many deem racist, the American League franchise is dropping the name it has been known by since 1915. Dolan said the team will continue to be called Indians until a new name is chosen — at least through next season. Dolan said the team will not adopt an interim name until choosing its new one … Dusty Baker said he isn’t sure if he’d like to manage the Astros beyond the upcoming season, his 24th as big league manager. At 71, Baker is entering the last year of his contract. He was hired in January to replace AJ Hinch, who was fired after he and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one year for their roles in Houston’s sign-stealing scandal.




Gonzaga, Baylor men still 1-2 despite not playing

The top five teams remained in place in The Associated Press men’s basketball Top 25 poll with Gonzaga receiving 54 of 62 first-place votes. No. 2 Baylor had seven first-place votes. Gonzaga hasn’t played since beating West Virginia on Dec. 2 due to COVID-19 protocols, with five straight games canceled or postponed, including a Dec. 5 matchup with Baylor. Baylor has also paused team activities. Gonzaga is next scheduled to face No. 3 Iowa in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Saturday. Baylor is slated to visit Kansas State the same day. Iowa got the last first-place vote to finish ahead of No. 4 Michigan State and No. 5 Kansas … Florida forward Keyontae Johnson was “following simple commands” Monday after being transferred from Tallahassee Memorial to UF Health in Gainesville, the school said. Johnson is undergoing further tests and remains in critical but stable condition two days after collapsing on the court during a game at Florida State … Stanford remained atop The Associated Press Top 25 women’s basketball poll for the second straight week. The Cardinal received 26 of the 30 first-place votes. Louisville, UConn, N.C. State, and South Carolina followed as the first five remained unchanged.

Washington bows out of Pac-12 title game, Oregon in

Washington pulled out of the Pac-12 football championship game due to COVID-19 issues in the Huskies’ program. Instead, Oregon will play No. 13 USC for the conference title on Friday. Washington (3-1) made the decision after determining the team did not have at least 53 scholarship players available and did not meet the minimum number of scholarship athletes at specific positions. Huskies coach Jimmy Lake said he did not expect to have any offensive lineman — scholarship players or walk-ons — available … Utah State’s board of trustees will launch an independent investigation to review allegations about inappropriate comments made during a Dec. 8 Zoom meeting between university president Noelle Cockett, athletics director John Hartwell, and members of the football team. The team allegedly expressed concern that their input was not sought during the hiring of new coach Blake Anderson, according to a statement by the players. Some athletes were in favor of interim coach Frank Maile … Two people with knowledge of the situation said Vanderbilt is negotiating a deal to make Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea its new head coach … The Atlantic Coast Conference hired Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips as its next commissioner, replacing the retiring John Swofford.



London puts pause on allowing soccer fans

London’s six English Premier League soccer clubs won’t be allowed fans at games again after the British capital was placed under the toughest level of coronavirus restrictions due to a spike in cases. The decision by the British government, which takes effect Wednesday, leaves only four top division clubs — Everton and Liverpool on the west coast, Brighton and Southampton on the south coast — in areas where a maximum 2,000 fans are allowed … Gerard Houllier, who led English club Liverpool to the FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup in 2001, has died. He was 73. French sports daily L’Equipe said Houllier, who also won the French league title with two different teams, died at home Sunday following heart surgery in France. He is one of only three managers — along with Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola — to win three trophies with an English club in the same season … Paris Saint-Germain said the initial assessment of Neymar’s left ankle injury is “reassuring.” The Brazilian forward was taken off on a stretcher Sunday during a 1-0 home loss to Lyon. After immediate fears of a serious injury, PSG said Neymar sprained his ankle and will undergo further exams … 23XI Racing announced a full slate of sponsorship to back the new NASCAR team owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan and three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin. DoorDash, McDonald’s, Columbia Sportswear, Dr Pepper, and Root Insurance were all named “founding partners” for the No. 23 Toyota Camry that Bubba Wallace will drive next season … Olympic veteran Codie Bascue will be the pilot of USA-1 when USA Bobsled rejoins the World Cup circuit for the second half of the season next month. The team announced the men’s national roster after a series of selection races. Geoff Gadbois will drive USA-2.