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Alex Ovechkin put on COVID-19 list; Capitals fined $100k for breaking protocols

Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are paying the price for violating the NHL's coronavirus protocols.
Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are paying the price for violating the NHL's coronavirus protocols.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Alex Ovechkin and three other Washington Capitals were added to the NHL’s COVID-19 list Wednesday and the team was fined $100,000 for violating coronavirus protocols, including a gathering in a hotel room. The other Capitals joining the list were center Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov and top goalie Ilya Samsonov. “I regret my choice to spend time together with my teammates in our hotel room and away from the locker room areas,” Ovechkin said in a statement issued by the Capitals. “I will learn from this experience.” The Capitals themselves said they were “disappointed by our players’ choice to interact in their hotel room and outside of team approved areas.” The team accepted the NHL’s decision. Being on the list would make Ovechkin and the others unavailable for practice, but it is possible that they could be allowed back with the team in time to play in Washington’s next game which is Friday against visiting Buffalo. Five players from the Carolina Hurricanes also are on the league’s COVID-19 list, and that team’s games were called off by the league through “at least” Saturday. The Hurricanes’ training facilities were closed and will remain that way for players “until further notice.”


Another game postponed

The NBA postponed Wednesday night’s game between Memphis and the Trail Blazers in Portland because of contact tracing with the Grizzlies, the 16th game postponement for coronavirus-related reasons this season. The league said the Grizzlies did not have the required eight players available because of ongoing contact tracing. The Grizzlies flew to Portland on Tuesday after beating the Phoenix Suns on Monday without Jonas Valanciunas because of league protocols. That can mean a positive COVID-19 test, an inconclusive test or potential exposure to someone who tested positive. That was the second time this month that Valanciunas was flagged by league protocols. After witnessing some opposing players disregarding new league rules against unnecessary contact on game nights, the league is moving team security into the midcourt area to dissuade violations that include hugging and handshakes, according to a league memo obtained by ESPN.


AmeriCup formats set

FIBA will bring teams back to bubble formats in February for the final round of qualifying games for the 2022 AmeriCup. The 16 teams are split into four groups for the qualifying; two groups will be going to Cali, Colombia, the other two — including the group that USA Basketball is part of — will be going to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Each team is slated to play its final two qualifying games sometime between Feb. 18 and Feb. 22. Final schedules have not been released. Canada was fined about $180,000 by FIBA this week for not participating — citing health concerns during the pandemic — in its two scheduled qualifying games in November, plus docked one point in the standings. The Canadians are appealing the FIBA sanctions, and saying they will continue to look into whether they can safely participate in next month’s games.



Atlanta Dream near sale

The Atlanta Dream are close to being sold, ending defeated US Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s contentious stint as a WNBA owner. Five groups have expressed interest in buying the Dream and that the team was “finalizing its decision,” said a person with knowledge of situation who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because none of those details had been revealed publicly by the team. Players around the league have called for Loeffler to sell her 49 percent stake in the Dream after she wrote a letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert over the summer objecting to the league’s initiatives to advocate for racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.



Astros, Brantley reach deal

Michael Brantley has reportedly agreed to a new deal that will keep him in Houston.
Michael Brantley has reportedly agreed to a new deal that will keep him in Houston.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Outfielder Michael Brantley agreed to a $32 million, two-year contract with the Houston Astros, a person familiar with the deal told the Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the contract, which is pending a successful physical, had not been announced. Brantley spent the last two seasons in Houston after playing for Cleveland for his first 10 MLB seasons. Brantley hit .300 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 46 games in last year’s pandemic-shortened season … The Minnesota Twins and veteran starting pitcher J.A. Happ agreed to an $8 million, one-year contract, according to a person with knowledge of the deal … Reliever Wade Davis is returning to the Kansas City Royals, the team he helped pitch to the 2015 World Series title. Davis and the Royals agreed to a minor league contract, and the 35-year-old righthander will go to spring training trying to earn a spot on the major league roster … The Toronto Blue Jays agreed to contracts with free agent righthanded pitchers Kirby Yates and Tyler Chatwood, said a person familiar with the negotiations. Yates agreed to a $5.5 million, one-year deal with $4.5 million in potential performance bonuses. Chatwood agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract with incentives that could take it to $5.5 million … Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda was memorialized during a private service Tuesday at Dodger Stadium before his burial in nearby Whittier, Calif. Lasorda died Jan. 7 after a heart attack at age 93.



Thomas seeks redemption

Justin Thomas intends to go through an individual training program to “become a better person” after he was picked up uttering a homophobic slur under his breath when he missed a putt at a tournament in Hawaii this month. Clothing brand Ralph Lauren ended its long-time sponsorship with Thomas following the incident two weeks ago, which the No. 3-ranked American golfer described as “humiliating and embarrassing and it’s not me.” Thomas has spoken to his other sponsors — Titleist, FootJoy and global bank Citi are among those listed on his official website — and hopes they will stand by him as he looks to educate himself and restore his reputation.


Buttner, Revolution part ways

On the day before the 2021 MLS SuperDraft, the New England Revolution and Alexander Buttner mutually agreed to terminate Buttner’s contract. The 31-year-old defender made 17 appearances for in 2020, his only season with the Revolution. The Dutch left back started 15 matches and recorded three assists. The Revolution have three picks — 24th overall, 51st overall, and 78th overall — in Thursday’s draft … The Revolution’s Matt Turner is the only senior goalkeeper training with US national team in Chicago. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson left training camp because of a knee strain the staff described as minor and will miss a Jan. 31 exhibition against Trinidad and Tobago at Orlando, Fla. Seattle forward Jordan Morris was given permission by coach Gregg Berhalter to leave camp for an undisclosed reason … American teenager Matthew Hoppe, 19, scored for the third consecutive Bundesliga game but couldn’t prevent Schalke from slumping to a 2-1 loss to fellow struggler Cologne in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Hoppe is the third American to score in three consecutive German league games after Eric Wynalda with Saarbrücken in 1992 and Clint Mathis with Hannover in 2004.



Scott leaving as PAC-12 commissioner

Larry Scott will step down from his role as head of the Pac-12 at the end of June 2021.
Larry Scott will step down from his role as head of the Pac-12 at the end of June 2021.D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is stepping down at the end of June, ending an 11-year tenure in which the conference landed a transformational billion dollar television deal but struggled to keep up with some of its Power Five peers when it came to revenue and exposure … The US Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston was scrapped for the second year in a row because of the coronavirus pandemic. The tennis tournament was supposed to be played April 3-11 … Knicks Go was installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, which will be the 5-year-old’s first outing since winning the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November … Greek Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou appeared before a public prosecutor in Athens in relation to sexual assault accusations she made that have ignited a nationwide debate on misconduct and encouraged multiple victims to make their claims public. Bekatorou, who won gold at the 2004 Athens Games, has said a senior sailing federation official assaulted her in 1998.