Mike Evans feels Tom Brady is "just playing chess" late in his career as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prepare for the NFC Championship Game.

Brady, 43, has led the Buccaneers into their first NFC Championship Game since the 2002 season and Tampa Bay face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

The Buccaneers finished last season 7-9 and now are a win away from the Super Bowl, but Evans is unsurprised Brady has had such a big impact.

"He's the greatest player to ever play the game. You add him on any roster and I'm sure the outcome would be somewhat like this," the wide receiver told a news conference.

"He always gets his teams to the playoffs. He's a winner, he's a natural-born winner, leader, all that.

"At this point in his career he's just playing chess and we're definitely very happy that he's on our side."

The Buccaneers were 6-2 on the road during the regular season and they have beaten the Washington Football Team and New Orleans Saints away from home in the playoffs.

While Super Bowl LV will be played at their Raymond James Stadium, they must first beat a Packers outfit that are 8-1 at Lambeau Field this season.

Brady, who is 1-1 at Lambeau Field with his most recent outing at the ground coming in 2014, said getting the fundamentals right was key on the road.

"We've been pretty good on the road all year, outside of the first game and then the Chicago game. For one reason or another we've just done a good job," he told a news conference.

"Some years it's been like that, I've been part of other teams when it wasn't quite like that. Let's keep that streak going, that would be pretty sweet, so let's get another one.

"We're going to be challenged to get it because we're going up against a great football team. Playing on the road is about playing good football – communication, execution, all the fundamentals of blocking, tackling. All those things.

"It's a great environment and this is one of the coolest stadiums in the league to play in. I know they're excited, we're excited, and it'll make for a great football game."

Patrick Mahomes had "limited work and no contact" on Wednesday as he works through concussion protocol ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs' AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills. 

Superstar quarterback Mahomes, who was already struggling with a toe injury, left the Chiefs' win over the Cleveland Browns last week following a hit from Mack Wilson. 

The 2018 MVP was unable to return, but veteran backup Chad Henne led the defending Super Bowl champions to a dramatic victory in their playoff opener. 

Henne, playing in the postseason for the first time in his NFL career, endured a shaky outing, though, throwing an interception and being sacked once despite completing six of eight passes and crucially gaining 13 yards on one of his two rushing attempts. 

Kansas City will be keen for the return of Mahomes, who became just the second player in NFL history - after Steve Young - to have both passing and rushing touchdowns in three straight playoff games. 

Head coach Andy Reid said every player besides Willie Gay was "out there in some form or another", with the Chiefs also hoping to welcome back rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. 

"Tomorrow's a bigger practice, but they all seemed to make it through well and we'll just see how it goes tomorrow," Reid said.

On Mahomes specifically, Reid added: "He looked good. He's in the protocol, so there's only certain things he can do.

"It's a limited basis, but today was a little bit limited practice, so that fitted right in to what he could do.

"He took all the snaps and he feels good, so we're just going to have to follow this protocol as closely as we possibly can."

Having continued to take risks with Henne at the helm last week, including a gamble on a pass from fourth and inches to seal the win, Reid is confident Kansas City's preparations will not be impacted by the uncertainty at quarterback.

"When Chad was in the game, we didn't really have to change much, so that was a plus," he explained. "We're just leaving it the way we do.

"Chad's comfortable with it, and he feels he can handle that. It's all well there."

Mahomes has thrown for 14 touchdowns and two interceptions across six playoff games, with a career postseason QB rating of 106.6, the best in league history.

Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have led the tributes to Philip Rivers after the Indianapolis Colts quarterback announced his NFL retirement.

Rivers, 39, spent the first 16 years of his career with the Chargers, initially in San Diego and later in Los Angeles, before joining the Colts for the 2020 season.

He led the Colts back to the playoffs with an 11-5 record and the team narrowly lost to the Buffalo Bills in the Wildcard Round in what proved to be his final game.

Rivers finishes his 17-year career ranked fifth all-time for both passing yards (63,440) and touchdown passes (421).

While Manning and Roethlisberger – the two other prominent quarterbacks drafted in 2004 – won two Super Bowls apiece, Rivers never made it to the big game.

But they insist it does not detract from his magnificent accomplishments.

Former New York Giants QB Manning wrote on Twitter: "Congrats to Philip on an outstanding career. 

"It was fun to watch my fellow Qb from 2004 draft class compete these past 17 years. Enjoy the next phase."

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Roethlisberger, whose own future is uncertain, added: "Philip, what a career! 

"An amazing competitor, winner and family man. It has been fun to compete against you and watch you do your thing for so many years. 

"I know countless kids have been inspired by you and will benefit from your coaching and football knowledge in the future. God bless!"

Colts head coach Frank Reich had previously said he believed Rivers had more left in the tank.

"Philip is one of the fiercest competitors and most loyal teammates that our game has ever seen," he said after Rivers' announcement. 

"His unwavering conviction as a leader and elite intelligence contributed to his Hall of Fame football career. 

"Philip made our game better and the National Football League was fortunate to have him.

"I wish Philip, Tiffany and the entire Rivers family the best and thank them for their contributions to our organization and community. 

"I am anxious to see Philip trade his helmet for the headset and do what he's always done best – bring his passion to the game of football and make others better."

Two of Rivers' prominent former Chargers pass catchers, Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry, were also quick to send him their gratitude on social media.

Allen wrote: "Husband, Father, Friend, Role Model, Professional, Warrior, Leader!

"Glad that I was blessed to be apart of your career. Showed up everyday like it was your last and never took any moment for granted!"

While Henry added: "Congrats stud. Insane career. 

"Thankful for everything you have done for me in my career. You were a true inspiration. Enjoy retirement stud!"

Houston Texans icon JJ Watt called Rivers "one of the smartest I’ve ever played against and a hell of a competitor".

Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, said Rivers' career was worthy of a place in the Hall of Fame, labelling him "an example to follow as a QB, a team leader, a Dad, and a man of faith".

Justin Thomas insists his "embarrassing" and "humiliating" use of a homophobic slur is "not me" and reflected on Ralph Lauren's decision to stop working with him as a result of the incident.

World number three Thomas was heard making the offensive comment by a television microphone when playing at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii earlier this month.

Afterwards, Thomas apologised for his "inexcusable" use of the slur and he again addressed the issue when previewing the Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour this weekend. 

"It's humiliating. It's embarrassing. It's not me. It's not a word that I use, but for some reason, it was in there," Thomas said. 

"And that's what I'm trying to figure out as to why it was in there, and just like I said, it's going to be a part of this process and training program or whatever I need to do, not only to prove to myself but prove to my sponsors and prove to those people that don't know who I am that that is indeed not the person I am."

Thomas will be playing without shirt branding in Abu Dhabi after Ralph Lauren opted to end its partnership with the 27-year-old.

Asked about the company's decision, Thomas replied: "I think disappointed is the wrong word. 

"Obviously I was upset. But at the end of the day, they have that right. They had to make the decision that they had to make. I spoke with them along with all my sponsors. 

"Although I apologised, it's like it was then; it's an opportunity for me to grow and I felt like it was something we could have done together and gone through that process. 

"They just felt like they needed to move on. That's exactly what I'm doing, as well. It was a great run that we had and a great partnership, but you know, things will work out on the best."

Thomas confirmed conversations have been held with his other sponsors, adding: "I've had great communication with all of them. 

"It was obviously not calls or e-mails I was hoping or planning to make but I needed to because I have some great long-lasting partnerships with all my sponsors. They know that's not the person that I am.

"They know that's not how I act and although they are far from brushing it to the side just like I am, they understand that this is an opportunity for me to educate myself, grow, become a better person, and just like they hope, I know that I'll become a better man and a better person because of it, and they are going to kind of help me along that process."

Thomas earned the backing of Rory McIlroy, who is confident his on-course rival will learn from his error in judgement.

"I think he's already responded really, really well," the four-time major winner said. 

"I think he realised he made a big mistake as soon as it was brought to him and he completely owned up to it. He said he messed up; he's going to try to be better. 

"And you know, Justin is true to his word. He will be. If anything, it will probably just make him a better person than he already is, which is hard because he's already a great guy."

Novak Djokovic has denied he was being "selfish, difficult and ungrateful" in making suggestions for easing quarantine restrictions ahead of the Australian Open.

Djokovic came in for criticism after it emerged he had sent Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley a list of potential ways for lockdown conditions to be improved for players who are under a strict lockdown in Melbourne.

Less than three weeks before the first major of the year gets under way, 72 players are consigned to their hotel rooms due to positive coronavirus tests on their flights to Melbourne.

World number one Djokovic does not have to adhere to such stringent rules in Adelaide, as he arrived on a virus-free flight.

The 17-time grand slam champion was labelled a "tool" by Nick Kyrgios after he was said to have asked for less time in isolation for players, requested they are given private housing with access to training courts, and better food.

Djokovic responded on Wednesday by stating that he was only trying to look out for his fellow players and expressed his gratitude to tournament organisers, the Australian government and the people of Melbourne.

He posted on social media: "My good intentions for my fellow competitors in Melbourne have been misconstrued as being selfish, difficult and ungrateful. This couldn't be farther from the truth

"I genuinely care about my fellow players and I also understand very well how the world is run and who gets bigger and better and why.

"I've earned my privileges the hard way and for that reason it is very difficult for me to be a mere onlooker knowing how much every help, gesture and good word mattered to me when I was small and insignificant in the world pecking order.

"Hence I use my position of privilege to be of service as much as I can where and when needed."

The Serb added of his correspondence with Tiley: "In our email exchange I used an opportunity to brainstorm about potential improvements that could be made to the quarantine of players in Melbourne that were in full lockdown.

"There were a few suggestions and ideas that I gathered from other players from our chat group and there was no harm intended to try and help.

"I was aware that the chances were low that any of our suggestions would be accepted, just like my request to quarantine with my team in Melbourne instead of Adelaide was denied prior to our travel because of the strict government regulations.

"I understand that organising international sporting events during a pandemic poses health risks to the local community and to the players themselves.

"Therefore, I would like to express my full gratitude to Tennis Australia, the Australian Government and local citizens for being willing to take this risk with us for the love of the game and the multiple opportunities it brings to the economy of the country and its people.

"We are honoured and we will all do our best to follow the guidelines and protocols put in place. We do hope that we will be able to nurture our bodies and be ready for the mental and physical endurance and strength tests that are ahead of us once the competition starts.

"Things in the media escalated and there was a general impression that the players [including myself] are ungrateful, weak and selfish because of their unpleasant feelings in quarantine. I am very sorry that it has come that because I do know how grateful many are.

"We all came to Australia to compete. Not being able to train and prepare before the tournament starts is really not easy. None of us ever questioned 14 days of quarantine despite what is being said by media outlets."

Dan Lydiate has been recalled to the Wales squad for the Six Nations but there is no place for Rhys Webb.

Back-row Lydiate last played for his country against Australia in 2018, but the 33-year-old is among the 36 players selected by head coach Wayne Pivac.

Scrum-half Webb has been overlooked, with Gareth Davies, Tomos Williams and Kieran Hardy getting the nod.

Scarlets back-row Josh Macleod is the only uncapped player in the squad for a tournament Wales will start with an encounter against Ireland at the Principality Stadium on February 7.

Pivac revealed he was unable to pick Rhys Priestland, despite the fly-half being set to return to his homeland with Cardiff Blues next season, due to the 60-cap rule.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones is hopeful of being fit to face Ireland in Dublin as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.

Ross Moriarty, Gareth Anscombe, Rhys Patchell and Scott Williams are among the players ruled out due to injury.

Pivac said: "We are hugely looking forward to meeting up as a squad on Monday and to the forthcoming campaign. The Guinness Six Nations is an important tournament and we have selected a squad accordingly.

"As we consistently spoke about, the autumn for us was about opportunity and development, looking ahead to RWC 2023 and it served that purpose for us.

"This campaign is different, it is tournament rugby and we are excited to get going and to play our part. We have picked a squad for this tournament based on form and we are excited to meet up on Monday and to get our preparation underway."

 

Wales squad:

Forwards: Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones, Rhodri Jones, Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias, Ken Owens, Leon Brown, Tomas Francis, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Will Rowlands, Cory Hill, Dan Lydiate, Josh Navidi, Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau, Josh MacLeod, Justin Tipuric.

Backs: Gareth Davies, Tomos Williams, Kieran Hardy, Dan Biggar, Callum Sheedy, Jarrod Evans, Johnny Williams, Jonathan Davies, Nick Tompkins, Owen Watkin, George North, Josh Adams, Hallam Amos, Louis Rees-Zammit, Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams.

The Detroit Lions have hired Dan Campbell as their new head coach, according to reports. 

Per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Campbell has signed a six-year contract to take the helm of a team that just recorded a third straight losing season. 

Campbell, who had been serving as assistant head coach and tight ends coach for the New Orleans Saints, succeeds Matt Patricia - the former New England Patriots defensive coordinator fired by the Lions in November. 

His previous head coaching experience came in 2015, when he was in charge on an interim basis at the Miami Dolphins following the firing of Joe Philbin after a 1-3 start. 

Campbell went 5-7 in his 12 games in the role with the Dolphins, but will hope for greater success with a Lions team that has won 14 games over the last three years. 

One of the issues he and new general manager Brad Holmes will have to resolve is the future of quarterback Matthew Stafford. 

Stafford is under contract until 2023 but the Lions could save $14million against the salary cap by moving on from the former first overall pick. 

A factor in Detroit's decision in that regard may be a lack of draft capital. 

The Lions pick seventh overall in the first round but have just four further draft picks thereafter, potentially making a trade of Stafford for additional picks appealing to Detroit. 

Regardless of what they decide to do with Stafford, Campbell will have a significant challenge on his hands to turn the Lions around after a 2020 season that saw them finish 20th in total offense and last in team defense.

Veteran Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers has announced his retirement after 17 seasons in the NFL.

Rivers spent the first 16 years with the Chargers, initially in San Diego and later in Los Angeles, before joining the Colts for the 2021 season.

During his solitary campaign in Indianapolis, Rivers led the team back to the playoffs with an 11-5 record, throwing for 4,169 yards and 24 touchdown passes.

He finishes his career ranked fifth overall for completed yards at 63,440 and touchdown passes with 421.

The 39-year-old played in 244 NFL games in total including 240 straight starts, which remains the second-longest streak for a quarterback behind the legendary Brett Favre (297).

Announcing his decision to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Rivers said: "It's just time. It's just right.

"It [his career] was awesome. A young kid from northern Alabama who grew up wanting to play pro ball. I got to do it.

"This is the first year I felt like the ending was real. We talked about it other years, but we knew we weren't doing it. This year felt different. It just seemed right."

Rivers is now set to embark on a new chapter in his life in Alabama, where he is to become the head football coach at St. Michael High in Fairhope.

"I can sit here and say, 'I can still throw it. I love to play.' But that's always going to be there. I'm excited to go coach high school football," he added.

"What has helped me come to this [decision] is the growing desire to coach high school football. That's what I've always wanted to do. It's been growing. I can't wait."

England head coach Eddie Jones is self-isolating after assistant Matt Proudfoot tested positive for coronavirus.

England Rugby announced on Wednesday that Proudfoot, who is asymptomatic, returned a positive in the latest round of pre-tournament testing ahead of the Six Nations and is now in isolation.

Jones and attack coach Simon Amor were identified as close contacts and must also self-isolate for 10 days, as per United Kingdom government guidelines.

Should they return further negative tests, Jones and Amor will be able to link up with the squad at St George's Park from January 28.

England, who are set to name their squad on Friday, are due to begin the defence of their Six Nations title against Scotland at Twickenham on February 6.

Jones is expected to name a 28-man selection featuring mostly established international players, with strict COVID-19 bubble arrangements meaning he cannot call up a larger group and allow those needing game time to return to their club sides.

Nikola Jokic has become a more aggressive scorer because he was beaten with a pillowcase full of soda cans by Mike Malone, the Denver Nuggets coach joked.

Nuggets center Jokic had 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in three quarters as Denver cruised to a 119-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Pepsi Center on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old has had at least a double-double in each of his 14 games this season and is averaging a triple-double of 25.1 points, 11.4 rebounds and 10 assists – all of which represent career highs.

Jokic's best scoring season was 2018-19 when he averaged 20.1 points per game, and Malone gave a light-hearted response when asked what has motivated the Serbian to become more prolific.

He replied: "I locked him in my office one day and I beat him with a pillowcase full of soda cans and I said: 'You've got to score more!'"

In a far more serious tone, Malone continued: "You know how he is, he's a great player, he's playing at an MVP level. You go back to tonight, 27, 12 and six, only one turnover.

"Early on they were playing him one-on-one, and sometimes I get frustrated because I don't think we give him the ball enough, especially when he's being guarded one-on-one.

"Nikola has seen every possible double-team, and so have we as a team. We space the floor correctly and he is so willing to find the open man, and we had great possessions against the double-team.

"He's always going to take what the defense gives him but he is being more aggressive, which is what we need from him."

The Nuggets are 10-2 against the Thunder since 2017-18, their best record against any Western Conference opponent in that span.

Denver's latest victory saw them improve to 7-7 on the season, but they are yet to hold a winning record this season after never being .500 or worse after their first game in the previous campaign.

Zion Williamson needs to "get in shape" if he is to fulfil his potential in the NBA, according to Hall of Famer Karl Malone.

New Orleans selected Williamson with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft but a meniscus tear in preseason and a season shortened by the coronavirus pandemic meant he played just 24 games in his rookie campaign.

The Duke product is up to 36 games – still less than half the standard season – but former power forward Malone, a two-time MVP who had All-NBA First Team honours on 11 occasions, thinks he need to improve his physique if he is to maximise his abilities.

Williamson is listed at six foot, seven inches and 284 pounds, with Malone pointing to Glen 'Big Baby' Davis as an example of someone who did not live up to their billing due to their size – Davis was 6ft 9in and played at 289 pounds.

"I love Zion Williamson. Zion needs to get into shape. If he doesn't get in shape, we might not ever know his full potential," Malone said on The Players' Tribune's Knuckleheads podcast.

"There's a young man that played at LSU, 'Big Baby' Davis. Big Baby made a comment about eight months ago, he did an ESPN show … he came on that show and he said, 'Look guys, I'm about to get into trouble now with what I'm about to say. I know everybody loves Zion and I love him too. But Zion has the same body type that I had.'

"He was talking about himself. And he said if he doesn't get into shape, we'll never know his full potential. And he did get heat from that."

Williamson had 32 points with five rebounds and three assists as the Pelicans suffered a 118-102 defeat to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, New Orleans losing for the sixth time in seven games to slip to 5-8 for the season.

This season the 20-year-old is averaging 23.4 points and 8.0 rebounds in 32.6 minutes per game. That ranks him 44th in minutes per game, with his usage percentage of 29.1 enough for 39th in the league.

However, he leads in the league in contested three-points shots per game at 5.9.

Malone added: "I'm still waiting on him to play the whole damn season… and he needs to be averaging 40 minutes per game. Look here, you're a 21, 22-year-old kid. Your a** shouldn't get tired."

The Toronto Blue Jays have reportedly reached a deal to sign star free agent and MLB World Series champion George Springer.

According to MLB.com and ESPN, the Blue Jays have agreed to a six-year, $150million contract with Houston Astros outfielder Springer, pending a physical.

The emerging Blue Jays, who returned to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2016, have been looking to make a splash in free agency as they seek to add experience to an exciting young core of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, while Toronto also boast the number one right-handed pitching prospect in Nate Pearson.

Toronto had been eyeing the likes of Francisco Lindor and DJ LeMahieu, before the former joined the New York Mets and latter re-signed with American League (AL) rivals the New York Yankees.

But, after recruiting ace Ryu Hyun-jin ahead of the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, the Blue Jays appear to have landed another big fish as they dream of World Series glory for the first time since 1993.

The reported deal to bring Springer – one of the most coveted free agents this offseason – from Houston would be the largest in Toronto's history, eclipsing Vernon Wells' $126m extension in 2006.

A World Series champion and MVP in 2017, Springer tallied a team-high 14 homers, 37 runs, 50 hits and 32 RBIs with a .265 average in 189 at-bats as the Astros reached the AL Championship Series (ALCS) last season.

Since making his MLB debut with the Astros in 2014, two-time Silver Slugger Springer has amassed 174 home runs, 567 runs, 832 hits and 458 RBIs with a .270 average in 3,087 at-bats.

The 31-year-old and three-time All-Star has hit 19 postseason home runs – tied for fourth on the all-time list.

Nikola Jokic enhanced his MVP credentials with another double-double in the NBA as the Denver Nuggets eased past the Oklahoma City Thunder 119-101.

Two-time All-Star Jokic led the Nuggets with a game-high 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in just three quarters on Tuesday.

Jokic – averaging a triple-double in 2020-21 – has posted a double-double in every game he has played for the Nuggets this season, a league-high 14.

The Nuggets outscored the Thunder 66-43 in the second and third quarters to win for the second time in three games, with team-mate Paul Millsap also putting up a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Luguentz Dort had 20 points on eight-of-11 shooting for the visiting Thunder in Denver.

The Utah Jazz, meanwhile, stayed hot with a 118-102 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Donovan Mitchell scored 28 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists to lead the Jazz to their sixth successive win.

Rudy Gobert (13 points and 18 rebounds) and Jordan Clarkson (18 points) also made contributions for the in-form Jazz.

Zion Williamson's game-high 32 points were not enough for the Pelicans, who have dropped six of their past seven games.

 

Nets at Cavaliers

James Harden, Kevin Durant and the star-studded Brooklyn Nets (9-6) will look to stay hot when they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers (6-7) on Wednesday.

Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic will be re-evaluated in six weeks after undergoing wrist surgery.

Nurkic suffered a wrist fracture in Portland's 111-87 NBA defeat to the Indiana Pacers last week.

Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey announced on Tuesday that Nurkic had surgery to repair the fracture in his right wrist.

Nurkic will wear a splint for four weeks as he faces at least six weeks on the sidelines.

The 26-year-old Bosnian is averaging 9.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game for the Trail Blazers (8-6) this season.

RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann said football and the NFL can learn from each other as he revealed his admiration for the Green Bay Packers.

Nagelsmann – one of Europe's finest tacticians – said he is a fan of American football after hailing the "extraordinary" discipline of the league's players.

As Aaron Rodgers and the Packers prepare to face Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, Leipzig boss Nagelsmann insisted the two sports can learn from each other.

"Our general manager Timmo Hardung is a huge Green Bay Packers fan, so that's rubbed off on me a bit," Nagelsmann told reporters ahead of Leipzig's match against Union Berlin on Wednesday.

"My heart beats for them a bit, their history is very interesting and different to most of the other clubs in the NFL."

Nagelsmann added: "It's a very interesting sport. And I think we can learn a lot from American football in soccer, and our players can learn a lot from it as well. Especially in terms of their discipline in studying and executing the team's playbook. I definitely think that's an area that soccer can improve on.

"The game is based on an unbelievable number of plays, and the players have to understand a lot of specific terms and then act accordingly out on the field. They have to do all that extremely quickly, which is extraordinary."

"You could see in the games that there were one or two tricks – I'd like to see a bit more of that. 'Hitch and Pitch' I think it's called. That worked quite well in the play-offs a couple of times," he continued.

"So American Football can learn from football, but definitely vice versa too. And if any NFL coaches would like to have a chat about it all, feel free to get in touch!"

Leipzig – Champions League semi-finalists last season – are third and four points adrift of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich after 16 matches in 2020-21.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said he "expects" All-Star Joel Embiid to return for Wednesday's showdown with rivals the Boston Celtics.

Embiid sat out Saturday's 106-104 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies due to right knee soreness, and the three-time NBA All-Star would have been absent again if Sunday's clash against the Oklahoma City Thunder was not postponed.

But Embiid took part in practice on Tuesday and Rivers is bracing for the 76ers center to make a comeback as two of the Eastern Conference's best teams meet midweek.

"I do expect him to go," Rivers said. "He was in and out of practice today, we didn't let him do a lot of stuff, but he looked pretty good."

Embiid – an early MVP candidate – is averaging 25.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game for the 76ers (9-5) this season.

The 26-year-old has relied on his jump shot even more this season but has instead taken most of them inside the arc.

Embiid – whose 76ers are 9-2 when he plays and 0-3 without him this term – has seen his jump shot field-goal percentage rise 8.2 per cent to 45.6 per cent in 2020-21.

The 76ers have been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, with Philadelphia left shorthanded since Seth Curry's positive COVID-19 test on January 7.

Philadelphia and Oklahoma City were scheduled to meet at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday, but the 76ers did not have the required eight players available because of contact tracing with the team.

But the 76ers – minus Curry – were back to full strength for Tuesday's practice, much to the delight of Rivers.

"It was nice," said Rivers. "We're not one of those teams that have the luxury of being together for several years. We have so many new bodies, a new system, new coach, everything.

"To have all those games and no practice and then to have all those guys out, and even your shoot arounds are not what you expect them to be, it absolutely has affected us."

Rivers added: "Even on a couple of days we have a somewhat of a practice, we didn't have enough guys to practice. Today was a day we had enough guys, we can change, we can sub in practice and put different units on the floor."

For the first time in NFL history a woman will officiate at the Super Bowl.

The league announced the officiating crew for Super Bowl LV on Tuesday and Sarah Thomas was named the down judge.

This will be the second playoff assignment for the 47-year-old Thomas, after she worked an AFC divisional-round game between the New Patriots and Los Angeles Chargers on January 13, 2019.

Thomas became the league’s first full-time female official back in 2015.

Troy Vincent Sr, the NFL executive vice president of football operations, said: "Sarah Thomas has made history again as the first female Super Bowl official.

"Her elite performance and commitment to excellence has earned her the right to officiate the Super Bowl. Congratulations to Sarah on this well-deserved honour."

Carl Cheffers has been named the referee for the championship game scheduled for February 7 in Tampa, Florida. Cheffers has previously officiated in 17 playoff games, and was in charge for Super Bowl LI in 2017.

Thomas and Cheffers will be joined by umpire Fred Bryan, line judge Rusty Baynes, field judge James Coleman, side judge Eugene Hall, back judge Dino Paganelli and replay official Mike Wimmer.

Robert Saleh warned there would be "no shortcuts to success" for the New York Jets after he was confirmed as the team's new head coach.

The Jets, who last reached the NFL playoffs in 2010, finished the 2020 season with a 2-14 record and fired Saleh's predecessor Adam Gase in December.

Saleh, 41, joins from his previous role as defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and becomes the Jets' 20th head coach.

He has also held roles with the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars and now becomes a head coach for the first time.

His task of improving the Jets is one that Saleh vowed to embrace, but he knows he is walking into a challenging job.

Jets general manager Joe Douglas described Saleh as "an exceptional teacher, motivator and communicator" as he welcomed him to New York.

"There are no shortcuts to success," Saleh said, "and I am committed to working with Joe to build this team the right way: with talented players that play fast and smart, and a staff that supports and helps develop them through it all.

"To Jets fans, your passion and commitment are priceless. I understand your expectations and embrace them. We have a lot of work to do and can’t do it without your support. Thank you for your warm welcome and please stay safe and healthy."

Douglas is convinced Saleh has rich potential as a head coach.

"We spoke to some tremendous coaches, but Rob is the right partner and leader for us," Douglas said.

"His vision for this team aligns with what we have been working to establish here the last two years. Coach Saleh's energy, knowledge and focus are contagious and will serve our team well as we continue to develop our culture, our foundation, and move this organisation in the right direction."

Tiger Woods has undergone back surgery for the fifth time in his career.

The former world number one and 15-time major winner confirmed he received a microdiscectomy procedure in a short statement released via his Twitter account, with discomfort experienced during the PNC Championship in December bringing about the intervention.

The surgery was deemed to have been successful, although Woods will not compete at the Farmers Insurance Open later this month or February's Genesis Invitational, where he will still carry out his duties as tournament host.

All eyes will now be on whether the 45-year-old can battle back from yet another injury setback to compete at The Masters, which starts at Augusta on April 8.

Page 1 of 517
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.