- Associated Press - Thursday, December 24, 2020

NBA

HOUSTON (AP) - Houston’s season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night was postponed after coronavirus cases and James Harden’s violation of the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols left the Rockets without the league-mandated eight players available.

The NBA announced the postponement in a release that said three Rockets players had returned tests that were either positive or inconclusive and that four other players were quarantined because of contract tracing.

The release also said that Harden was unavailable for the game because of a violation of health and safety protocols after video of the disgruntled star surfaced on social media where he was without a mask at a crowded party in a private event space Tuesday night.

The league also announced a $50,000 fine for Harden,



NHL

Leading playoff scorer Nikita Kucherov is expected to miss the entire regular season because of a hip injury that requires surgery, a blow to the Tampa Bay Lightning that also comes with a silver lining for the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Kucherov won’t be available for the 56-game NHL season that’s scheduled to run from Jan. 13-May 8. General manager Julien BriseBois is optimistic the 27-year-old will be back for the playoffs and said Kucherov’s absence will allow the Lightning the long-term salary relief to be salary-cap compliant with the rest of their key players under contract.

NEW YORK (AP) - The NHL has released a first-of-its-kind schedule with the season opening on Jan. 13.

It features four realigned divisions based on geography. Teams will play only their division rivals during the 56-game regular season that ends on May 8.

It includes an all-Canadian North Division. The three remaining eight-team divisions are made up of the league’s 24 U.S.-based franchises. They will face each division opponent eight times. It is a schedule full of quirks.

MLB

NEW YORK (AP) - The Mets have hired Zack Scott as senior vice president and assistant general manager, reuniting the former Boston Red Sox executive with New York GM Jared Porter.

The team announced the hiring Wednesday. The 43-year-old Scott spent the previous 17 seasons with Boston and was an assistant general manager the last two years, overseeing analytics, baseball systems and advance and pro scouting departments.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Arizona has hired New England Patriots assistant Jedd Fisch as its head coach.

The school announced Wednesday that Fisch will replace Kevin Sumlin, who was fired earlier this month after the Wildcats finished the season winless.

The 44-year-old arrives in the desert after bouncing between college football and the NFL.

He worked at Michigan, UCLA, Miami and Minnesota. This is his first season as quarterbacks coach with the Patriots. He previously worked with Jacksonville, Seattle, Denver, Baltimore and Houston.

Fisch takes over an Arizona program in disarray. The Wildcats ended the 2019 season on a seven-game losing streak and went 0-5 this year.

MONROE, La. (AP) - Former Auburn coach Terry Bowden has been hired by Louisiana-Monroe to rebuild a program that went 0-10 this season.

Bowden, the son of former Florida State coaching great Bobby Bowden, has been serving as a graduate assistant at Clemson the last two years. He replaces Matt Viator, who was fired earlier this month after five seasons.

Terry Bowden, 64, had a successful stint as Auburn’s head coach from 1993-98, going 47-17. That came to a tumultuous end with a midseason firing.

After a long run in broadcasting as a television and as a radio analyst, he returned to coaching in 2009 with Division II North Alabama. Bowden was back in Division I with Akron, leading the Zips from 2012-18 and going 35-52 with two bowl appearances.

NEW YORK (AP) - Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins has won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy honoring the nation’s best defensive player.

The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Collins totaled 54 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions. The junior had three sacks against Oklahoma State. Two of his interceptions were game-clinchers — a late one against SMU and a 96-yard return for a touchdown against Tulane in overtime.

COLLEGE ATHLETICS

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A federal judge says she will grant an injunction to stop the University of Iowa from dropping women’s swimming for the 2021-2022 school year.

U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose announced the decision Tuesday at the end of a two-day hearing on a Title IX complaint filed by four female swimmers, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.

The lawsuit said the university is exacerbating the situation by dropping women’s swimming and diving teams when it already offers fewer opportunities for women than men.

OLYMPICS

The World Anti-Doping Agency says a Swiss court has overturned an eight-year doping ban against Chinese swimmer Sun Yang and ordered the case back to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for a second time but with a different chairman of the judges.

In February, CAS found the three-time Olympic champion guilty of refusing to cooperate with sample collectors during a visit to his home in September 2018 that turned confrontational. WADA brought the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after world swimming governing body FINA had issued the now 29-year-old Yang with only a warning.

At stake in a second CAS hearing would be Yang’s chance to compete at the pandemic-delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics now set for July 2021.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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