Friday Sports in Brief

VIRUS OUTBREAK

NEW YOR (AP) — The NBA wants its teams to prepare to play games without fans if necessary because of the coronavirus crisis, but LeBron James already says he won’t play basketball in an empty arena.

The league circulated a memo to its teams Friday telling them to prepare in case it becomes necessary to play games without fans or media, as sports leagues in Europe have already done. The memo detailed potential actions that teams might need to take “if it were to become necessary to play a game with only essential staff present.”

But when James was asked about that possibility after he scored 37 points in his Los Angeles Lakers‘ 113-103 win over the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night, the NBA’s leading active scorer was definitive.

“We play games without the fans? Nah, that’s impossible,” James said. “I ain’t playing if I ain’t got the fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for. I play for my teammates, and I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. So if I show up to an arena and there ain’t no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do.”

The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, says teams should identify which team and arena people would be necessary to conduct games, and be able to communicate quickly with non-essential staff, as well as ticket holders and corporate partners.

BALTIMORE (AP) — In what was believed to be the first U.S. sports event held without fans because of the new coronavirus, Yeshiva University beat Worcester Polytechnic Institute in a Division III men’s basketball NCAA Tournament game Friday in an empty gym at Johns Hopkins University.

Players on each bench cheered and chanted “De-fense!” to make up for the lack of fans. The squeaking sound of sneakers and bouncing of the ball reverberated off the walls of the 1,100-seat Goldfarb Gymnasium that was otherwise so quiet that the in-game chatter could be heard several rows back.

Only players, coaches, referees, employees and media members were present, so the official attendance was 0.

Yeshiva won its first NCAA Tournament game in program history and extended its winning streak this season to 28. Sophomore Ryan Turell, scored a career-high 41 points.

TORONTO (AP) — The NHL has sent a memo to teams urging players to limit contact with fans because of the coronavirus outbreak.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the league issued the memo in an email to The Canadian Press on Friday.

The move follows a similar directive this month by the NBA, which has told its players to stop high-fiving fans and strangers, and avoid taking items for autographs.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday at the close of the annual general managers meetings in Florida that he’s ordered a halt to all business-related travel outside North America for league employees.

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Tennis players at the BNP Paribas Open that starts next week will have to manage their own towels on court and ball kids will wear gloves while working matches at the combined men’s and women’s tournament in the Southern California desert.

The measures were announced Friday by tournament organizers, who are offering fans uneasy about the coronavirus a refund for this year’s event or a credit for next year. The event runs March 11-22.

A chair will be placed at the back of the court for players to place their towels for use during matches. Ball kids won’t be allowed to touch or move player towels.

NBA

The NBA fined Dallas owner Mark Cuban $500,000 on Friday for “public criticism and detrimental conduct” regarding officiating. Separately, the league sent a memo to teams reminding them of rules that govern conduct of owners, coaches and other team personnel during games.

The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, laid out parameters for proper conduct by team personnel toward game officials, how team personnel other than coaches are not allowed on the court during games and how they cannot use “profane or objectionable language that might be heard by spectators” during the game.

Further, it said the league’s “enforcement of these rules with enhanced penalties will be a point of emphasis for the league office” during the rest of the season and beyond.

The memo about the rules of conduct for team personnel does not mention Cuban specifically, though he typically sits near the Mavericks’ bench during games.

MLB

PHOENIX (AP) — The Milwaukee Brewers have reached a deal Christian Yelich that will keep the former National League Most Valuable Player in their lineup for several more years.

Brewers general manager David Stearns announced Friday the team has signed Yelich to a $215 million, nine-year contract running through the 2028 season with a mutual option for 2029. Terms weren’t disclosed.

The Athletic first reported that the Brewers and Yelich were closing in on a deal.

His new deal added $187.25 million over seven seasons to the remaining $27.75 million Yelich was guaranteed as part of the $49.57 million, seven-year contract he signed in March 2015 with Miami.

The 28-year-old Yelich has been arguably the National League’s productive player in the two seasons since the Brewers acquired him from Miami. During his two seasons in Milwaukee, the Brewers have made back-to-back playoff appearances for the first times since 1981-82, when they were still in the American League.

His .327 batting average over the past two seasons leads the majors. Over the last two years, Yelich also ranks second in the majors in on-base percentage (.415), slugging percentage (.631) and OPS (1.046).

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has a broken rib and it’s not clear whether he will need surgery, leaving doubt when he’ll be back in the lineup.

Manager Aaron Boone made the announcement Friday. He said he thought the star right fielder hurt himself making a diving catch late last season.

Judge will rest two weeks while recovering from the stress fracture to his first right rib. He hasn’t played in any spring training games while dealing with soreness in his right pectoral muscle and shoulder.

Judge underwent around a dozen tests, including and MRI plus CT and bone scans, to determine the source of his pain.

“It shows signs of healing so we’re going to give it the next couple and re-test to show how much healing is going on with that rib,” Boone said.

GOLF

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The strongest field of the year at The Players Championship will be without the biggest draw in golf.

Tiger Woods isn’t playing.

Woods will miss The Players Championship for the first time when not recovering from any of his nine surgeries. His agent, Mark Steinberg at Excel Sports Management, said in a text, “Back just not ready. Not long term concern.”

Woods has played only two times this year, a tie for ninth at Torrey Pines and last place at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, where he serves as tournament host. Woods shot 76-77 on the weekend at Riviera in the Pacific chill and said his back was a little stiff.

He decided at the last minute not to play the World Golf Championships event in Mexico. He didn’t play the Honda Classic for the second straight year, and then he chose not play the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where he has won a record eight times.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is honoring a pair of retired pro golfers with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the president can give a civilian.

Annika Sörenstam and Gary Player will receive the medal during a White House ceremony on March 23, the White House announced Friday.

Both are members of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Player, who is South African, won 24 PGA Tour events and 118 international tournaments.

Sörenstam, who is Swedish, completed her LPGA career with 72 tournament victories and was the dominant female player of her era, earning The Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year award three consecutive years beginning in 2003.

OBITUARY

MONTREAL (AP) — Henri Richard, the speedy center who won a record 11 Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens, died Friday. He was 84.

His death was announced by the team. Richard had Alzheimer’s disease.

Richard was captain of the Canadiens from 1971 to his retirement in 1975, succeeding the legendary Jean Beliveau, with whom he shares the record of playing 20 seasons for the NHL club.

He was better known as the younger brother of superstar Maurice “Rocket” Richard and was nicknamed the Pocket Rocket for his 5-foot-7, 160-pound frame.

Henri Richard played 1,256 regular-season games, another Canadiens record. He scored 358 goals and had 1,046 points, third in team history behind Guy Lafleur (1,246) and Beliveau (1,219)

He added 129 points in 180 playoff games.

His 11 Stanley Cups, one more than Beliveau and another former Canadiens captain Yvon Cournoyer, is unlikely to be surpassed. Seven were won when the NHL had only six teams.