Wednesday Sports in Brief
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Zion Williamson capped his long-awaited NBA debut by scoring 17 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and stirring the crowd into a frenzy — only to see his team come up short.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 32 points and 14 rebounds, DeMar DeRozan added 20 points, and the San Antonio Spurs withstood Williamson’s late surge for a 121-117 victory over New Orleans on Wednesday night.
After spending the past three months rehabilitating from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, Williamson struggled to find his shot during the first three quarters, during which he played a little less than 12 minutes. When the fourth quarter began, he had just five points, four rebounds, an assist and four turnovers.
But when Williamson found himself open for a straight-on 3 with about nine minutes to go, he let it fly and it went down, infusing the stadium with energy. He followed that up with a torrid three-minute stretch in which he laid in an alley-oop lob, put back a missed shot with a reverse layup and hit three more 3s.
He finished the surge with a free throw as the jubilant crowd chanted, “M-V-P!”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Eli Manning, who led the New York Giants to two Super Bowls in a 16-year career that saw him set almost every team passing record, has retired.
The Giants said Wednesday that Manning would formally announce his retirement on Friday.
The recently turned 39-year-old’s future had been in doubt since the end of the season. Manning’s contract with the Giants expired after the 4-12 season and there was little chance he would be returning after losing his long-time starting job to rookie Daniel Jones.
Manning said he wanted to think about his future after the season and roughly three weeks after the season ended he decided his career was over.
“For 16 seasons, Eli Manning defined what it is to be a New York Giant both on and off the field,” John Mara, the Giants’ president and chief executive officer said in a statement.
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Big 12 suspended four players from Kansas and Kansas State a combined 24 games Wednesday for their roles in a melee that spilled off the court and into a section of disabled seating in Allen Fieldhouse near the end of the third-ranked Jayhawks’ win over the Wildcats.
Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa, who already was suspended indefinitely by Jayhawks coach Bill Self, was given a 12-game suspension by the league office. His teammate, David McCormack, was suspended two games while Kansas State forward James Love received an eight-game suspension and Antonio Gordon got a three-game suspension.
Both schools also were reprimanded by the Big 12 for violations of its sportsmanship policy.
Kansas (15-3) has played six conference games, which means De Sousa’s suspension from the Big 12 would last through the end of the regular season. The Jayhawks are a half-game back of top-ranked Baylor in the league standings, and they have a team that is capable of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Shareef O’Neal, son of Shaquille O’Neal, plans to transfer from UCLA, where he sat out his first year after heart surgery and played just 13 games this season.
O’Neal announced his decision on social media Wednesday night, but didn’t mention his plans. He averaged 2.2 points and 2.9 rebounds while playing 10.2 minutes per game.
“We fully support his decision and are wishing him all the best,” first-year Bruins coach Mick Cronin said.
The 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward from Los Angeles was recruited out of Crossroads High by former Bruins coach Steve Alford after averaging 27 points as a senior. O’Neal missed his freshman season after being diagnosed with a heart issue during a routine physical that required open-heart surgery.
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Mets are finalizing a multiyear agreement with quality control coach Luis Rojas to make him the team’s manager, staying in-house to replace the ousted Carlos Beltrán, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said Wednesday.
Rojas would take over for Beltrán, who left the Mets last week before managing a single game as part of the fallout from the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
The 38-year-old Rojas is the son of former Montreal Expos and San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou and the brother of ex-big leaguer Moises Alou. The former minor league manager has been with the organization since 2007 but had never coached in the majors before joining Mickey Callaway’s staff last season.
Callaway was fired after the season, and Rojas interviewed for the vacancy in November before New York hired Beltrán.
NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball will test computer plate umpires during spring training but will not use the system for decisions in any exhibition games.
MLB experimented with the automated balls and strikes system during the second half of last season in the independent Atlantic League, and the Arizona Fall League used it for a few dozen games at Salt River Fields. The Major League Baseball Umpires Association agreed last month to cooperate and assist if Commissioner Rob Manfred decides to utilize the system at the major league level.
“We will be running the automated balls and strikes system only in test mode but will not actually use it to call balls and strikes in spring training games,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement. “It will be available in nine spring training facilities for later use during the Florida State League season.”
Plate umpires hear the computerized ball/strike calls via earpieces. The human umps decide on checked swings and other plays.
NEW YORK (AP) — Dozens of mayors from across the United States have formed a task force opposing a proposal by Major League Baseball to eliminate 42 affiliated minor league franchises for the 2021 season.
The coalition launched Tuesday with three leaders and was up to 30 members by Wednesday afternoon, ranging from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Hillsboro, Oregon.
“All of us understand this plan is a major league error,” Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said.
MLB and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues are negotiating a minor league agreement to replace the contract expiring after the 2020 season. MLB has proposed cutting more than a quarter of its 160 affiliates, citing concerns over the quality of facilities, travel and player salaries.
Politicians have pummeled MLB over the plan.
NEW YORK (AP) — Larry Walker’s Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown will have a Colorado Rockies cap, not a Montreal Expos hat.
Walker spoke with Hall officials after he was elected Tuesday in his 10th and final appearance on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.
Born in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Walker made his big league debut with the Expos in August 1989 and signed with the Rockies ahead of the 1995 season. He was traded to St. Louis in August 2004 and retired after the 2005 season.
“It’s a hard decision, being a Canadian,” Walker said.
He added the key to picking the Rockies is that Colorado was “where the majority of my damage was done.”
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The NCAA will now permit elite athletes to be paid for training expenses by the U.S. Olympic Committee and other national governing bodies.
The Division I Council adopted the legislation Wednesday at the NCAA convention and it is effective immediately.
Previously, college athletes could compromise their eligibility to compete for their schools by accepting some benefits that are provided to potential Olympians.
Under the new legislation, athletes designated elite by the USOC or other organizations such as USA Swimming or USA Track and Field can have travel expenses paid for parents, coaches or trainers. The new rules also will allow potential Olympians to spend more time working with their college coaches without breaking NCAA rules regarding practice limits.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore will sit out a second straight WNBA season to continue her push for criminal justice reform.
Moore told The New York Times in a story published Wednesday of her choice to stay off the court for 2020. She said in her interview with the newspaper that she’s not ready to retire. Moore’s agent confirmed her decision to The Associated Press.
The 30-year-old, who won the WNBA Most Valuable Player award in 2014 and was a five-time first team All-WNBA selection, also cited fatigue when she first surprised the basketball world last winter by announcing she would step away.
Head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said Wednesday in a statement issued by the club that the Lynx have “been in frequent contact” with Moore over the last year and praised her “fully engaged” effort in criminal justice reform and ministry. Reeve did not address Moore’s playing status.
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — A warrant has been issued for the arrest of NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown following accusations that he and his trainer attacked another man near Brown’s Florida home.
Hollywood police spokesman Christian Latta said in a Wednesday news release that Brown faces charges of burglary with battery, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance and criminal mischief.
Officers responded Tuesday afternoon to a disturbance call, where the alleged victim said Brown and his trainer, Glen Holt, hit him, police said. Holt was arrested a short time later and charged with one count of burglary with battery.
Officers attempted to make contact with Brown but were unsuccessful, Latta said.
Police didn’t immediately identify the alleged victim or what prompted the confrontation.
HYATTSVILLE, Md. (AP) — Morgan Wootten, a Hall of Fame basketball coach who built DeMatha High School into a national powerhouse and mentored several future NBA stars during a career that spanned parts of six decades, has died. He was 88.
The school announced his death on Twitter, writing, “The Wootten Family is saddened to share the news that their loving husband and father Morgan Wootten passed away” on Tuesday night surrounded by his family.
Wootten coached DeMatha, a private Catholic school in Hyattsville, from 1956 to 2002. He went 1,274-192 and retired as the winningest high school coach in history, although he now ranks second.
Wootten never had a losing season and won at least 30 games on 10 different occasions.