Thursday Sports in Brief
MATSUSHIMA AIR BASE, Japan (AP) — The Olympic flame arrived in Japan on Friday from Greece in a scaled-down ceremony at an air base in northern Japan.
The flame, carried in a special canister, touched down amid growing doubts if the Tokyo Games can open as scheduled on July 24 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Organizers and the International Olympic Committee say it will, but postponement or cancellation is viewed increasingly as a possible option.
The flame reached Japan aboard a white aircraft painted with the inscription “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay” along its side. It was greeted on the tarmac by a small contingent of organizing committee officials.
Two of Japan’s most famous Olympians — three-time wresting gold medalist Saori Yoshida and three-time judo gold medalist Tadahiro Nomura — received the flame for the lighting ceremony.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton says he has tested positive for the coronavirus, is resting comfortably at home and is making his test result public in hopes he can motivate people to do more to fight the pandemic.
Payton learned Thursday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus, he told ESPN before posting a photo of himself smiling as he sat on a couch next to his dog.
Payton, 56, is the first employee of either an NFL team or the league to make such a diagnosis public.
Payton told ESPN that he was tested Monday for coronavirus after he began to feel ill a day earlier. He added that he has not been admitted to a hospital and does not have a fever or cough.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams have released Todd Gurley, their superstar running back with a massive contract and a troubling injury history.
The Rams made the move Thursday, several minutes before $10.5 million in the three-time Pro Bowl selection’s contract became fully guaranteed.
The Rams also cut veteran linebacker Clay Matthews after just one season with his hometown club. Matthews was due a $2 million roster bonus, among other guarantees.
Gurley will consume a whopping $20.15 million in dead salary cap space this season for the Rams.
DETROIT (AP) — Darius Slay got what he was waiting for — a trade out of Detroit and a big new contract.
The Lions agreed to trade Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles, ending the standout cornerback’s seven-year stint in Detroit. Agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed the trade Thursday and that Slay agreed to a three-year, $50 million extension with Philadelphia.
The Lions drafted Slay 36th overall in 2013, and he earned All-Pro honors in 2017. Slay wanted a new contract before last season and did not attend Detroit’s mandatory minicamp. He ended up reporting to training camp and played well enough to earn a third Pro Bowl nod.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos are waiving Joe Flacco with a failed physical designation, a person with knowledge of the move told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team didn’t announce the decision.
Flacco went 2-6 as Denver’s starter last season before a neck injury ended his season. He was eventually replaced by rookie Drew Lock, who went 4-1 down the stretch and was named the incumbent in 2020.
—By Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton.
The number of known coronavirus cases within the NBA doubled to 14 on Thursday, when Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics pleaded with people to take social distancing more seriously and the league ordered all teams to shutter their training facilities indefinitely.
Smart revealed that he tested positive and the Los Angeles Lakers said two of their players tested positive as well, bringing the number of players who have acquired the virus to 10. The Philadelphia 76ers said three members of their organization tested positive and the Denver Nuggets said someone within their franchise was positive as well.
The 76ers and Nuggets did not say if the affected people were players, coaches or other staff.
BOSTON (AP) — Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale will have Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, an operation that would keep him out the entire 2020 baseball season if and when it resumes after the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement comes two weeks after saying Sale had a flexor strain near the elbow. At the time, the Red Sox hoped Sale would avoid the operation that usually requires at least a full year of rehab. Bloom said it usually takes 14-15 months to recover.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco Giants right-hander Tyler Beede will undergo Tommy John elbow surgery Friday.
Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi made the announcement Thursday. Beede’s surgery will be performed by Texas Rangers physician Dr. Keith Meister in the Dallas area.
Beede left an exhibition game after one inning on March 3 with tightness in his elbow, and an MRI exam the following day showed he had a flexor strain and a UCL sprain. The club gathered additional opinions on the injury before Meister determined surgery the best decision.
NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball called off what was to have been its first two regular-season games in Mexico City, along with a three-game series in Puerto Rico because of the new coronavirus.
Arizona and San Diego were to have played on April 18 and 19 at Mexico City’s Alfredo Harp Helú Stadium, a 20,000-capacity ballpark that opened in March 2019.
The New York Mets and Miami had been scheduled to play a three-game series at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan from April 28-30.
MLB has delayed opening day until mid-May at the earliest because of the virus outbreak.
If the games are rescheduled, they would be at the home teams’ ballparks in Phoenix and Miami.
GREELEY, Colorado (AP) — Steve Smiley has been promoted to head men’s basketball coach at Northern Colorado, replacing Jeff Lindor, who took over at the University of Wyoming.
Athletic director Darren Dunn announced the promotion Thursday night about 48 hours after naming Smiley the interim head coach following Lindor’s departure.
Lindor went 80-50 in four seasons at Northern Colorado, including three consecutive 20-plus win seasons. Smily joined Lindor’s staff in May of 2016.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A person familiar with the situation says UAB has agreed in principle with former Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy to become the Blazers basketball coach.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity Thursday night because no official announcement had been made. Athletic director Mark Ingram said in a text message that UAB would make an announcement Friday morning but didn’t confirm the hire.
CBS Sports first reported the deal with Kennedy.
The Blazers announced a “change of leadership” in the program on March 13.
Robert Ehsan led the Blazers to a 76-57 record in four seasons, going 38-34 in Conference USA games.
Kennedy resigned as the Rebels’ coach in February 2018 after 12 seasons.
—By AP Sports Writer John Zenor.
PARIS (AP) — The iconic Monaco Grand Prix was canceled on Thursday because of the coronavirus outbreak and two other Formula One races were postponed.
F1’s showcase race was scheduled for May 24 in the tiny principality on the Mediterranean coast between France and Italy.
Hours after being postponed, along with races in the Netherlands and Spain, it was scrapped for 2020.
NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Soccer is targeting a May 10 return to play and will consider pushing back its championship game by a month into December.
After announcing a 30-day suspension last week because of the new coronavirus, the league said Thursday it will follow last weekend’s recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to not hold events involving more than 50 people for eight weeks.
The MLS championship game had been scheduled for Nov 7.
On its website, the league announced the May 10 target for a return date.