Serena Williams made an incredible exit from the Australian Open on Wednesday, giving up a 5-1 final-set lead to Karolina Pliskova in their quarter-final. 

Williams rolled her ankle during the seventh game of the final set as she served for a spot to face Naomi Osaka in the last four in Melbourne. 

Instead, the 23-time grand slam champion squandered four match points and lost six straight games, beaten 6-4 4-6 7-5 on Rod Laver Arena. 

Williams lost 25 of the final 33 points of the match – including all 11 on serve – but was full of praise for Pliskova afterwards, while insisting she did not choke. 

We take a closer look at how the match points, and crucial others, unfolded.

Williams serving at 5-1, 40-30
After being called for a foot fault, Williams is moved around the court by Pliskova, who dictates with her forehand to win the point as her opponent rolls her left ankle.

Williams serving at 5-1, 40-40
Looking troubled by her ankle, Williams puts two serves into the net.

Williams serving at 5-1, 40-AD
After missing another first serve, Williams sends a backhand almost halfway up the net to drop serve.

Pliskova serving at 2-5, 30-30
Two points from defeat, Pliskova produces an ace out wide.

Williams serving at 5-3, 0-15
Williams serves another double fault.

Pliskova serving at 4-5, 15-40
Williams' second match point is saved when Pliskova serves out wide and then hits a clean backhand winner down the line.

Pliskova serving at 4-5, 30-40
Pliskova's first serve only just misses down the T, but a forehand cross-court forces Williams into an error.

Pliskova serving at 4-5, 40-AD
A fourth chance for Williams goes begging when Pliskova paints the baseline with a huge forehand.

Williams serving at 5-5, 0-15
Williams serves a third double fault in as many games, although these are long. She produced just four double faults for the match.

Pliskova serving at 6-5, 40-30
The comeback is completed when Pliskova hits a big serve down the T, controls the point and Williams puts a forehand into the net.

Karolina Pliskova revelled in the "best comeback ever" after her incredible win over Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarter-finals. 

The Czech seventh seed came from 5-1 down in the final set and saved four match points to claim a 6-4 4-6 7-5 victory in Melbourne on Wednesday. 

Pliskova, who will face Naomi Osaka in the last four, said there was no doubt it was her best fightback. 

"Well, normally I'm having lot of comebacks, but maybe like from being a set down or a break down, so nothing like this," she told a news conference. 

"I think it's going to be the best comeback ever so far in my life."

Williams rolled her ankle when serving for the match in the seventh game of the final set, but the 23-time grand slam champion praised her opponent. 

Pliskova, into her third major semi-final, said she tried to pay no attention to Williams' side of the court. 

"Whatever is happening on the other side, I just try to block it. Either it's positive or negative, whatever is there, it's just not my business. I'm sorry, but that's how it is. I know once I start to think about that, it's bad," she said. 

"That's what I did at that time. But I was like, 'Yeah, maybe something little bit happened, but she's still on serve, even if she loses this game, it's still 5-2.' I didn't really think about it, that maybe there's going to be a chance at that game. 

"But she did I think double-fault. I really went for my shots. I didn't feel like she played something really bad that game. Maybe the double-fault was a big help. Otherwise, I don't think she did anything actually that bad. 

"I thought she a little bit was missing more than she was the set and a half [prior]. But I was more aggressive. That's what was working in the first set, so that's just what I did."

Serena Williams refused to blame a rolled ankle for her incredible Australian Open loss to Karolina Pliskova, instead giving credit to her opponent.

Williams gave up a 5-1 lead in the final set and squandered four match points in a 6-4 4-6 7-5 quarter-final loss at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday.

The 23-time grand slam champion appeared to roll her ankle when serving in the seventh game and Pliskova took charge from that point.

But Williams, 37, said her ankle was not the reason she suffered defeat.

"My ankle seems to be fine. I usually don't know until the next day," the American told a news conference.

"I think she just played lights out on match point, literally, hitting lines. Just went for, just went crazy on match point. She just played unbelievable on match point."

Williams lost 25 of the final 33 points of the match, including being broken to love twice.

She said: "I think she just played well on my serve after that point. I think she just kind of started playing really, really good. I don't think it had anything to do with my ankle, per se. I just think she was just nailing and hitting shots.

"Obviously I made some mistakes, but she played really well after that."

The Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers had yet another heated matchup in the NBA and Dallas came out victorious once more.

Last time these two teams met in Dallas, Dennis Smith Jr. had his tooth knocked out by Patrick Beverley. The Mavericks won that game, and they were victorious once again on Tuesday, claiming a 106-98 victory.

The Clippers did not turn the ball over much, but the opposition capitalised at all the right times. Dallas converted Los Angeles' eight turnovers into 23 points. 

Harrison Barnes led all scorers with 20 points. Luka Doncic and Smith each chipped in 17 points. Smith had missed the past six games because of a back injury and illness while also being at the center of trade rumours. 

The Clippers were ice-cold, shooting just 36.3 per cent from the field. Beverley led Los Angeles in scoring with 16 points.

Dallas improved to 21-26 while Los Angeles dropped to 25-22.

 

Bagley brilliant on first start

Marvin Bagley led all scorers in his first career start, totalling 22 points and 11 rebounds in the Sacramento Kings' 120-105 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Russell Westbrook recorded a triple-double with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists to help lead the Oklahoma City Thunder past the Portland Trail Blazers 123-114.

Karl-Anthony Towns put up 25 points, 18 rebounds and seven assists in a 118-91 blowout win for the Minnesota Timberwolves over the Phoenix Suns.

Josh Jackson scored a season-high 27 points and had 10 rebounds for the Suns.

 

Harris horrible for Clippers

Tobias Harris scored nine points on one-of-nine shooting for the Clippers.

Mikal Bridges scored seven points on three-of-11 shooting in Phoenix's loss.

 

Doncic keeps producing

Luka Doncic used a crafty behind-the-back dribble to find his way to the rim.

Westbrook tried to tear the rim down with a tomahawk slam.

Tuesday's results

Toronto Raptors 120-105 Sacramento Kings
Oklahoma City Thunder 123-114 Portland Trail Blazers
Dallas Mavericks 106-98 Los Angeles Clippers
Minnesota Timberwolves 118-91 Phoenix Suns

 

Raptors at Pacers

Indiana are just behind Toronto in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors won their last game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 121-105, but the Pacers have been especially disruptive on the defensive end lately. Toronto are 2-0 against Indiana so far in 2018-19.

Karolina Pliskova ended Serena Williams' bid for a record-equalling 24th grand slam title at the Australian Open with an incredible comeback win on Wednesday.

Pliskova came from 5-1 down in the final set and saved four match points to claim a stunning 6-4 4-6 7-5 victory in the quarter-final on Rod Laver Arena.

Williams appeared to be in complete control until she rolled her ankle in the seventh game of the final set and Pliskova took advantage.

The Czech seventh seed moved into a third major semi-final, where she will face Japanese star Naomi Osaka.

Williams was eyeing an eighth title in Melbourne and 24th grand slam crown – to go level with Margaret Court – but Pliskova produced the huge comeback.

Both players made a clean start before Pliskova landed the first blow of the contest, breaking in the third game.

A backhand winner down the line set up break point, converted when Williams put a backhand into the net.

Williams had seemed to be reluctant to miss her first serve, with her speeds well down early compared to previously this tournament.

She picked it up in the fifth game, but had to fight her way out of a 0-40 hole and fend off four break points to hold serve.

Pliskova, who had her left knee taped, was in fine form throughout the opening set, closing it out with an ace.

The first chance to break in the second set went to Pliskova, who struck when Williams sent a backhand into the net in the fifth game.

But Williams responded immediately and broke once more at the perfect moment in the 10th game to take the second set 6-4.

Seemingly with all the momentum, Williams started to take control, breaking for 3-1 in the third set with a wonderful cross-court forehand return winner.

But Williams rolled her left ankle while serving at 5-1 – a match point also going begging – and Pliskova incredibly got back on serve.

Pliskova was forced to save three more match points in an enthralling 10th game, a backhand winner making it 5-5.

The Czech broke Williams to love in the next game and then sealed the amazing victory when her opponent sent a forehand into the net on match point.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN 
Pliskova [7] bt Williams [16] 6-4 4-6 7-5

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 
Pliskova - 32/15
Williams - 54/37

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 
Pliskova - 9/0
Williams - 12/4

BREAK POINTS WON
Pliskova - 5/11
Williams - 4/8

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Pliskova - 79
Williams - 65

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Pliskova - 68/38
Williams - 64/46

TOTAL POINTS
Pliskova - 102
Williams - 95

Allen Iverson thinks Carmelo Anthony deserves another chance to play in the NBA.

Anthony appeared in just 10 games for the Houston Rockets this season before he was traded to the Chicago Bulls this week.

But, Chicago do not plan to play the 34-year-old forward, either, as they will either waive or deal him before the trade deadline. 

Iverson – a 2016 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee – wrote on Tuesday on Instagram he still believes Anthony can be a contributor.

"With all due respect, he can only make your team better," Iverson captioned a photo of Anthony.

Anthony averaged 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds during his time with the Rockets. The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly could be interested in adding him if he clears waivers and they have an open roster spot.

The 10-time All-Star spent last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder before he was traded to the Hawks in mid-July in exchange for a package centred around Dennis Schroder. He was bought out by Atlanta, then signed with the Rockets.

Iverson, who last appeared in an NBA game in 2010, averaged 26.7 points per game over 14 seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies. He made 11 All-Star teams and won the 2000-01 MVP.

Iverson and Anthony were team-mates in Denver from 2006-08.

Naomi Osaka cruised into a second grand slam semi-final after proving too good for Elina Svitolina at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

The US Open champion powered past Svitolina in an impressive 6-4 6-1 victory in their quarter-final on Rod Laver Arena.

Osaka, the 21-year-old fourth seed, was the aggressor throughout and she was too strong for the sixth-seeded Svitolina.

Svitolina, who beat Osaka twice last year, is now 0-4 in major quarter-finals and needed treatment during the second set.

Osaka will face either Serena Williams or Karolina Pliskova in the last four.

After a few relatively comfortable holds, Osaka and Svitolina traded breaks, the former using her power to grab a 5-3 lead.

Serving for the set, Osaka produced some nervy points from 30-15 to allow Svitolina to get back on serve once more.

Incredibly, Osaka gave up a 0-40 lead in the next game, but a return winner and Svitolina hitting the net with a backhand saw the Japanese star take the set.

Osaka quickly grabbed a 3-0 lead in the second set before Svitolina took a medical timeout for treatment on her shoulder/neck area.

But the break did nothing to slow down Osaka, who closed out a superb victory in one hour, 12 minutes.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN 
Osaka [4] bt Svitolina [6] 6-4 6-1

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 
Osaka - 31/25
Svitolina - 11/16

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 
Osaka - 8/0
Svitolina - 1/3

BREAK POINTS WON 
Osaka - 5/13
Svitolina - 2/4

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE 
Osaka - 61
Svitolina - 58

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE 
Osaka - 64/52
Svitolina - 60/27

TOTAL POINTS 
Osaka - 60
Svitolina - 46

James Harden was disappointed to see Carmelo Anthony's short stint in Houston come to an end.

The Rockets announced Anthony's departure on Tuesday.

"Melo is one of the best to ever hoop. He loves the game of basketball," Harden told reporters on Tuesday, via ESPN.

"Some guys just do it just because they're gifted or they're athletic or they can shoot the basketball. There's not that many players that like, love to hoop ... It kind of sucks that it didn't work out. It is what it is. I just hope he finds somewhere where they can embrace him and he can still hoop. So he [gets to] make that decision that he's done [playing]."

The 10-time All-Star, as well as the rights to Jon Diebler and cash considerations, were sent the Chicago Bulls in exchange for the rights to Tadija Dragicevic.

However, Anthony is not expected to play a game with Chicago, multiple reports stated.

He has been linked to the Los Angeles Lakers, but has also fielded multiple offers recently.

"I just want to see him hoop, see him happy, and I mean, he deserves it, honestly," Harden said. "Like, he's put so much time and effort into this game that he should be able to hoop and still have fun playing the game of basketball."

Anthony, 34, averaged 13.4 points in 29 minutes per game for the Rockets. He shot 40.5 per cent from the field and 32.8 per cent from three-point range.

Washington Redskins president Bruce Allen remains "optimistic" that quarterback Alex Smith can play again.

Smith made his first public appearance on Monday since he was carted off the field in November with a frightening leg injury.

The 34-year-old, who was seen in a suite at the Washington Wizards' home game against the Detroit Pistons sporting a brace and crutches, suffered the season-ending injury after he was sacked during the Redskins' game against the Houston Texans.

He underwent surgery on his tibia and fibula, but developed an infection from the procedure and remained in hospital for several weeks.

It is unclear if the Redskins quarterback will be able to return in time for next season and reports have said Smith may not even play again, but Smith is holding out hope.

"He's moving around and well on his way to a recovery," Allen told reporters at the Senior Bowl practice.

"It's a tough thing for him and his family. All the love and care has helped him quite a bit.

"We'll see how it goes. We're optimistic. If anyone can come back, it's Alex. I'm sure he wanted to shoot hoops at the game yesterday, but we'll see."

Allen did not say if the team were moving on and looking to add another quarterback, or whether Smith would need any other surgeries.

"We prioritise every position on the team," Allen said. "And we'll see what we get in free agency and the draft."

He added: "He's going to follow the doctor's advice and his wife's advice and we'll see what happens."

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick believes Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald is "pretty much unblockable".

The Patriots will face the Rams in the Super Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on February 3, and Donald is expected to be a major factor in the game.

Asked what impressed him about Donald, Belichick told reporters: "Everything. He's pretty much unblockable."

Donald, a five-time Pro Bowl player and the 2017 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, tallied 59 total tackles and a league-leading 20.5 sacks in 16 regular-season games in 2018. He also forced four fumbles.

Belichick also praised the Rams' defensive line as a whole as well as the team's veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

"They're really good," Belichick said. "They've got great inside power and quickness and they've got a great edge rush. They've got a lot of good players, a lot of guys that are hard to block.

"They do a really good job. Wade always does. He's an excellent coach and he does such a great job with all of those guys there. They have a variety of players and they're all a problem."

 

Keifer Sykes broke the individual record for points in a Basketball Champions League game, but he could not prevent Sidigas Avellino falling to defeat at Banvit on Tuesday.

Sykes racked up 43 points - almost half of his team's total - but the home side prevailed 96-88.

The point guard surpassed the record set by Martin Zeno and Jimmy Baron in the competition's first season, Sykes shooting 16-of-24 from the field including six-of-10 from beyond the arc as well as contributing seven assists.

Banvit's progression to the knockouts is assured although they cannot claim top spot in Group A as that will go to UCAM Murcia, who won 78-70 at home to Anwil. The other matches in that pool saw Ventspils triumph 99-81 at MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg and Le Mans defeat Nizhny Novgorod 89-74.

Group C leaders Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem were just three shy of their record for points scored in a game as they routed CEZ Nymburk 111-80, while in Group B Telekom Baskets Bonn won 73-69 at Umana Reyer Venezia.

In Group D, ​Promitheas Patras and Oostende look well-placed to qualify after respective wins against SIG Strasbourg and Bayreuth.

Tiger Woods says continuing his comeback story is as much about learning when to rest as it is about putting in the practice hours.

Written off by many after a succession of back surgeries, Woods returned to form in stunning fashion last year, impressing at The Open and the US PGA Championship before ending a five-year wait for a title by winning the Tour Championship amid scarcely believable scenes at East Lake.

Those performances were good enough to earn the 14-time major champion a place on the US Ryder Cup team, although that week in Paris proved a dissatisfactory ending to a stellar year as Woods finished on the losing side without contributing any points.

But ahead of his 2019 debut at this week's Farmers Insurance Open - where he has prevailed seven times before - Woods says the lessons of the past mean he is more careful in the way he manages his body.

"Going through what I went through the last few years, I don't wish that on anybody," Woods told a media conference at Torrey Pines. "There was a long period where I couldn't sit, stand or walk - that's a tough way to go.

"The fusion surgery was a last-ditch effort to get me that quality of life, now I have that and I've been able to return to a work environment.

"What I went through, I don't ever want to go back to that again so that's why I've been so diligent in training, to give my body the best chance to do my job but also there are days I just don't practice and don't train and just rest.

"That's probably been the lesson I've learned through all this, there are days I just have to shut it down and not do anything and relax because most of my career has been spent on, 'In order to get better, I have to work at it'.

"A lot of the off-season has been training, trying to get stronger. Last season I got tired because I didn't expect to play that much golf and I didn't train for it. The legs are where they need to be, which they weren't at the end of the season."

Woods revealed it was not until after the Ryder Cup that he was able to reflect on his Tour Championship victory and the effect it had on those close to him.

"After I won we went straight to the hotel to sign all our items before we left for Paris. I didn't get time to celebrate or reflect on the Tour because we had a job to do," the 43-year-old said.

"When that was over I got home to my friends and family, to hear some of the stories of how nervous and emotional they were, people who saw what I went through, saw the difficult times and to see I made it that far back...

"That was touching to me because I didn't expect that. I know what it took for me but I didn't know it would have affected anyone else like that."

Two days after losing the AFC Championship Game to the New England Patriots, the Kansas City Chiefs have fired defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.

The Chiefs were beaten 37-31 in overtime at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday as Tom Brady guided the Pats to a third straight Super Bowl and their fourth in five years.

Despite entering the playoffs as the AFC's number one seed, the Chiefs' defense was statistically one of the worst in the league, ranking last in passing yards surrendered and last in average yards per rush.

On Sunday against the Patriots, Kansas City's defense allowed 524 yards from scrimmage and 36 first downs and on Tuesday it was confirmed that Sutton had been relieved of his duties.

"Bob is a good football coach and a great person," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said in a statement. "He played an integral role in the success of our team over the last six seasons.

"I've said before that change can be a good thing, for both parties, and I believe that is the case here for the Chiefs and Bob.

"This was not an easy decision, but one I feel is in the best interest of the Kansas City Chiefs moving forward."

Rafael Nadal sees no reason to treat his Australian Open semi-final against another Next Gen star in Stefanos Tsitsipas differently to any other match.

The Spaniard eased into the last four at Melbourne Park - a stage at which he has lost just once, in 2008 - with a 6-3 6-4 6-2 success over the unseeded Frances Tiafoe on Rod Laver Arena.

And next up for the second seed is a meeting with Tiafoe's fellow Next Gen alumni Tsitsipas, who counts six-time champion Roger Federer among his scalps en route to a maiden grand slam semi-final.

But Nadal will not be changing his approach as he prepares for a 30th appearance in the last four of a major.

"I play another match if they are the Next Gen or not," said the 17-time grand slam winner.

"For me what really matters is win the match and give myself a chance to be in the next round. That's the real feeling for me at this stage of my career.

"I know they are good. I know they will be fighting for the most important things during the next couple of years. I don't take it that way. I just take it like a difficult match against players that have a lot of energy. That's all.

"It's another match. It's a difficult match. I try to do my thing, do it well to try to give myself the chance to be through. It's a good challenge for me. I hope to be ready for it.

"I am playing well. I did a lot of things well during the week and a half. Let's see. I don't know, I can't predict what can happen.

"I am just going day by day and being very happy about the way things started for me. It's very positive the way that I am in the semi-finals. That's the only thing that I can say. Then I'm going to try to be ready for it."

Ulster have issued a lifetime ban to a spectator who was found to have abused Racing 92's Simon Zebo during a European Champions Cup clash earlier this month.

After the fixture at Kingspan Stadium, in which Zebo scored a try in a 26-22 defeat, the winger posted on Twitter and made reference to the abuse received.

"A tough place to play but great effort from the boys, 2 important points on the road," he wrote.

"Also I hope my ears deceived me with some comments directed my way from the crowd #NotOn Django wins in the end."

On Tuesday, Ulster released a statement confirming that, with the help of other members of the crowd, an individual had been identified and banned for life.

"Following a robust investigation into allegations of abuse directed at Simon Zebo during the fixture versus Racing 92 on Saturday 12th January, Ulster Rugby has sanctioned a lifetime ban on a spectator, for breaching our stadium regulations," the statement read.

"We would like to thank the many supporters who provided information to assist our investigation.

"We are all very proud of our reputation as an inclusive club and the unacceptable behaviour of this one individual is not reflective of our supporters, or the values of our club. We have issued a written apology to Simon Zebo and Racing 92."

Zebo subsequently posted on Twitter to say: "Thank you @UlsterRugby".

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) may talk to whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov if it has any questions regarding Russia's anti-doping laboratory.

On Tuesday, WADA announced that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) would remain compliant as long as it continues to apply the conditions set out upon its reinstatement last September.

RUSADA, originally suspended in November 2015 following revelations of widespread, state-sponsored doping, missed the December 31, 2018 deadline to allow WADA inspectors to retrieve data from a Moscow laboratory.

That data was later handed over, which was considered enough by WADA to negate the need for a fresh ban, and the world body now plans to analyse the material it has received.

Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia's anti-doping laboratory, is living in witness protection in the United States after he revealed details of his country's illegal practices, including in 2017 Netflix documentary film Icarus.

"For the process itself we will not [consult Rodchenkov] because we have our experts," said WADA director of intelligence and investigations Gunter Younger.

"But if there is anything we need to address or understand regarding the laboratory we will definitely approach him as a witness and try to clarify whatever questions we have."

Asked if he was confident that the RUSADA saga will be cleaned up before the start of the next Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, Younger replied: "We are in a good position, we know exactly what we're looking for.

"We'll inspect the raw data...everything is together, we needed the last piece of the puzzle which is the raw data.

"We're very confident that we can go forward with cases very soon after authentication of the data is confirmed."

Jonathan Joseph has been added to England's squad for the opening round of the Six Nations against Ireland.

The centre has not featured for his country since last year's tournament and missed nine months of action due to an ankle injury.

However, Joseph returned for club side Bath this weekend and the 27-year-old – who has scored more tries in Eddie Jones' tenure than any other England player – will travel to Portugal on Wednesday with the rest of the squad.

Joseph has 17 tries in 40 matches for England, who begin their Six Nations in Dublin on February 2.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) executive committee has ruled that The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) will remain compliant providing it continues to make progress with the criteria set out upon its reinstatement.

RUSADA missed a December 31 deadline to allow WADA inspectors to retrieve data from a Moscow laboratory, which was one of the criteria set out when the body was reinstated as compliant with WADA's code last September.

Lab data was later handed over to WADA inspectors, which has been deemed enough by the body not to impose a fresh ban. 

RUSADA could still find itself ruled non-compliant if any of the data is found to have been tampered with, WADA added in a news release.

WADA reached its decision after endorsing a recommendation made by the independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC), which was considered by the ExCo on Tuesday.

"Today, the ExCo was pleased to hear of the significant progress that has been made in resolving the Russian doping matter since its decision in September last year to reinstate RUSADA under strict conditions," WADA president Craig Reedie said. 

"Collecting the all-important data is a critical step, and it was not easy to achieve. We are not yet at the finishing line and there is a lot more to do but undeniably we are much further along the track than we would have been without the September ExCo decision.

"We are now proceeding to the second phase of that decision, namely authenticating the data retrieved from the former Moscow Laboratory so that ultimately we can use them to catch more athletes who cheated and to exonerate others. 

"We will not be deterred from this mission, which we firmly believe is in the best interests of clean sport and of athletes worldwide.

"Several members of the ExCo voiced their disappointment that the deadline had been missed but agreed that no sanction in that regard should be imposed. 

"Above all, we want to ensure that those who cheated are held to account. That is what the September ExCo decision was all about, and I hope athletes and others see that we are making good progress in that regard."

RUSADA was suspended in November 2015 in the wake of accusations of state-sponsored doping made in the McLaren report, claims that have been consistently denied.

The decision to lift the ban last September drew widespread criticism. 

The statement added that WADA vice-president Linda Helleland "noted for the record that she maintained her position from September that RUSADA should have been asserted as non-compliant until the process was complete".

LeBron James is unlikely to return for the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, but Rajon Rondo could be back to help Luke Walton's depleted side.

Superstar James has missed 14 games since straining his left groin on December 25, with the Lakers going 5-9 since he and Rondo were injured.

Head coach Walton says James is making progress but does not foresee him taking to the court against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"I haven't seen him do contact yet, so I don't feel as confident," Walton said after Monday's 130-111 loss to the Golden State Warriors. 

"But I know you know how serious he is about his rehab. So he's doing everything possible and we've talked. 

"I know he's dying to get back on the basketball court, but he also knows that getting healthy is the top priority. 

"So whenever that day comes, he'll be back out there."

Rondo has also missed 14 games since having surgery to repair a ligament in his right ring finger

"I think Rondo will play Thursday as long as he continues to move with no setbacks until then, but that will be something that we'll keep pushing him and we'll re-evaluate each morning," Walton added.

With Lonzo Ball also out for four to six weeks with a sprained ankle, Brandon Ingram started at point guard and had three assists but also two turnovers against the Warriors.

Speaking after the game, Ingram said he was was eager to see Rondo's impact - beyond his 8.4 points, 6.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds in only 14 of the Lakers' 48 games this season.

"It gives us a leader, a leader on the basketball floor," Ingram said of Rondo. "It puts us in our spots on the offensive end. Pushes the pace, he can score the basketball. And it just makes our team better."

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