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SPORTS LOG

Pelicans Zion Williamson ok’d for full team practices for first time this season

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson has been cleared to practice with the team after a right foot fracture suffered in an offseason workout derailed his start to this season.Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson has been cleared to participate in full team activities, the club announced Friday, but there remains no specific timetable on when the 2019 top overall draft choice out of Duke will play. The upgrade in Williamson’s status came after he underwent imaging Wednesday on his right foot, which he fractured during an offseason workout.Williamson participated in four-on-four, full-court work Friday. He will “continue his progression towards returning to play,” a written statement provided by the Pelicans said. “An estimated date to return to game action has not been determined.” The Pelicans lost 16 of their first 20 games without Williamson, an All-Star last season who led New Orleans with 27 points per game.

LeBron James fined for obscene gesture

LeBron James was fined $15,000 for an obscene gesture by the NBA, which also warned the Lakers superstar about using profane language. James made the gesture after making a shot late in Los Angeles’ 124-116 overtime victory in Indiana on Wednesday night. He had missed a loss at New York a night earlier after he was suspended one game for hitting Detroit center Isaiah Stewart in the face and drawing blood last Sunday. He used profanity in his postgame interview after the victory in Indiana when discussing the suspension.

GOLF

Brooks Koepka easily defeats Bryson DeChambeau

Brooks Koepka didn’t win a major, but he did win bragging rights. Koepka made quick work of Bryson DeChambeau in their much-anticipated, mano-a-mano showdown from the Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas. The Match was scheduled to go 12 holes, but Koepka needed just nine in his win. Koepka, a four-time majors winner, had four birdies in the match for charity, while DeChambeau didn’t have any. Koepka birdied half of the first eight holes, DeChambeau didn’t win one and he conceded the match on the ninth hole.

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New variant has golfers in South Africa tournament leaving early

A batch of British and Irish golfers withdrew from the Joburg Open before the second round after the U.K. government announced it was banning flights from South Africa to counter the spread of a new COVID-19 variant. The inaugural season of the DP World Tour started Thursday but more than a dozen players pulled out of the tournament because of the new restrictions, tour spokesman Steve Todd confirmed. The U.K. announced it was suspending flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries and making travelers from these countries self-isolate for 10 days. From Sunday morning, travelers would have to go into hotel quarantine. U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there were concerns the new variant “may be more transmissible” than the delta strain, and “the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective” against it. Also, the European Union said it plans to stop air travel from southern Africa because of the variant as the 27-nation bloc is battling a massive spike in cases ... South African golfer Thriston Lawrence shot another 6-under 65 to finish his second round atop the leaderboard of the Joburg Open. Lawrence was on 12-under 130 at the halfway mark to lead compatriot Zander Lombard (67) by four strokes on a day when play was again interrupted by bad weather before being suspended because of fading light.

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BASEBALL

AP: Mets, Eduardo Escobar reach deal

The New York Mets and All-Star infielder Eduardo Escobar have agreed to a free agent contract, according to a person familiar with the deal. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement was pending a physical and hadn’t been announced. MLB Network reported the contract will pay Escobar $20 million over two years. The 32-year-old Escobar was a first-time All-Star in 2021, when he batted .253 with 28 homers, 90 RBIs, and a .786 OPS for Arizona and Milwaukee. The switch-hitter has been a solid offensive contributor and a steady defender at third base the past four seasons, except for a slump during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

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SOCCER

Italy and Portugal in same men’s World Cup playoff bracket

The World Cup in Qatar is sure to be without either Italy or Cristiano Ronaldo. Italy and Portugal, the current and previous European champions, were drawn into the same qualifying playoff bracket , meaning at least one will fail to qualify for next year’s tournament. Italy will first face North Macedonia at home in a playoff semifinal next March, and the winner will play away at either Portugal or Turkey for a spot at the World Cup ... Former Netherlands international John van’t Schip resigned as Greece coach after failing to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar ... Right back Kyle Duncan left Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls to sign with Oostende of Belgium’s first tier on a free transfer.

TENNIS

Novak Djokovic helps Serbia get past Spain in Davis Cup

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic secured a victory for Serbia, 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez got defending champion Spain off to a solid start, and a young Italian team rolled past the 32-time champion United States in the Davis Cup Finals. Djokovic beat Dennis Novak 6-3, 6-2 to give Serbia a 2-0 lead over host Austria in Innsbruck after Dusan Lajovic had defeated Gerald Melzer in three sets to open the best-of-three series in Group F. The victory extended Djokovic’s winning streak in Davis Cup singles matches to 15.

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MISCELLANY

Skip Holtz out as head coach at La. Tech

Louisiana Tech and head football coach Skip Holtz have agreed to part ways, the school announced. Holtz, 57, will coach his final game with the Bulldogs on Saturday against Rice ... San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson will take a temporary leave to deal with an undisclosed medical issue. The Sharks said assistant general manager Joe Will will take over the team’s day-to-day operations during Wilson’s absence ... The first of two men’s World Cup downhills in Lake Louise was canceled due to too much snow. About 10 inches fell overnight and an additional four inches were expected Friday at the ski resort in Banff National Park west of Calgary.