- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2020

NBA

The NBA announced major changes to the All-Star format on Thursday, turning every quarter into a mini-game for charity before an untimed final quarter with a target score that will decide which team wins. Scores will be reset - back to 0-0 - at the start of the second and third quarters, then restored to begin the fourth quarter.

That’s where the tribute to kOBE Bryant and the No. 24 jersey he wore for the last decade of his NBA career comes into play. The team that wins the All-Star Game will be the first to reach a target score, determined by the total points the team in the lead scored in the first three quarters combined - plus 24, the obvious nod to Bryant.

The NBA said there will be multiple tributes to Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the seven others who lost their lives in Sunday’s helicopter crash throughout All-Star weekend, including the showcase game on Feb. 16. The target score is just one of them.

The team that has the most points after the first quarter will win $100,000 for its charity. The same will apply to the second and third quarters. The scores get added for the fourth to set the target score - for example, if the score is 100-95 at that point, then the team that wins the All-Star Game will be the first to reach 124.



MLB

HOUSTON (AP) - Dusty Baker was introduced as Houston’s manager on Thursday, bringing a wealth of experience to a club reeling from a sign-stealing scam that cost manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow their jobs.

Baker longed for another shot at an elusive title after falling short in his previous stops. But at 70 years old he wasn’t sure if it would come.

“I was happy but I wasn’t satisfied, where I was and what I was doing because something’s missing,” he said. “And I think the Lord gave me the best chance to accomplish what I need as a person, as a father, and as a man.”

Baker is the oldest manager in the big leagues. Hinch was fired Jan. 13 just an hour after he was suspended for the season by Major League Baseball for his role in Houston’s illicit scheme.

Baker can add another game to his upcoming schedule, too.

MLB said Baker will be invited to manage the American League team in the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium on July 14. Baker played for the Dodgers from 1976-83 and helped them win the World Series in 1981.

SOCCER

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Major League Soccer and its new Nashville team say Mayor John Cooper refused Thursday to commit to moving ahead with a stadium plan approved under the previous mayor.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber and team officials met with Cooper at the league’s office Thursday in New York City to discuss the team’s stadium project. The soccer officials said they want an answer by Feb. 6.

MLS and Nashville issued a joint statement, saying the team has worked over the past four months to improve the stadium deal with new proposals to address concerns of the mayor, who took office in late September.

The league said in the statement that Garber made clear that MLS would not have awarded Nashville an expansion team without the city’s commitment to build a soccer stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds location.

GYMNASTICS

USA Gymnastics has filed a bankruptcy plan that includes an offer of $215 million for sexual abuse survivors to settle their claims against the embattled organization.

The $215 million total is the amount USA Gymnastics’ insurance carriers are willing to provide the sport’s national governing body to end years of legal battles with athletes who were abused by former national team doctor Larry Nassar. The two sides have been in mediation since USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy in December 2018.

Nassar is serving decades in prison for sexual assault and possession of child pornography in Michigan. Hundreds of athletes have come forward over the last three years saying Nassar abused them under the guise of treatment, including reigning Olympic champion Simone Biles and six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman.

Bankruptcy law requires businesses to provide an exit plan within 18 months, and the exit plan is another step in a still lengthy process. USA Gymnastics President Li Li Leung told The Associated Press on Thursday that the organization wants to “work toward a true consensual settlement” with survivors.

GOLF

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - The LPGA says it has canceled the Blue Bay LPGA event scheduled for the first week of March on Hainan Island in China, citing health concerns and travel restrictions due to the viral outbreak.

In a statement Thursday, the LPGA said because of the coronavirus in China, the event scheduled March 5-8 will not be held this year. China has reported more than 7,700 cases of the virus and 170 deaths. The industrial hub of Wuhan and other Chinese cities are on lockdown.

The LPGA said canceling the tournament was a difficult decision and that the health and safety of the players, fans and everyone working on the event is its highest priority.

The LPGA said it is looking forward to returning to Blue Bay in 2021 and for many years to come.

SKIING

OBERHOFEN, Switzerland (AP) - Two World Cup ski races that were cancelled in China because of the ongoing virus outbreak have been moved to Austria.

The downhill and super-G races were originally scheduled to be held next month at Yanqing, a venue set to be used for the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Replacement races will now be held on Feb. 13-14 at Saalbach-Hinterglemm, the International Ski Federation (FIS) said Thursday.

The races were the only men’s World Cup events set to take place on the Olympic speed course ahead of the first Winter Games in China.

COURTS

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The New Orleans Saints say they only did “minimal” public relations work on the area’s Roman Catholic sexual abuse crisis, but attorneys suing the church allege hundreds of confidential Saints emails show the team’s involvement went much further, helping to shape a list of credibly accused clergy that appears to be undercounted.

New court papers filed this week by lawyers for about two dozen men making sexual abuse claims against the Archdiocese of New Orleans gave the most detailed description yet of the emails that have rocked the NFL team and remain shielded from the public.

“This goes beyond public relations,” the attorneys wrote, accusing the Saints of issuing misleading statements saying their work for the archdiocese involved only “messaging” and handling media inquiries as part of the 2018 release of the clergy names.

Instead, they wrote, “The Saints appear to have had a hand in determining which names should or should not have been included on the pedophile list.”

That list, the Saints’ role in it and how accurate it was have become key questions in a controversy that has swirled around the team since news of the emails broke last week.

OBITUARY

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - John Andretti, a member of one of auto racing’s most famous families and the first driver to attempt the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s 600-mile race in North Carolina on the same day, has died. He was 56 and had spent the last three years battling colon cancer.

Andretti Autosports, which is owned by Andretti’s cousin, Michael, announced the death Thursday.

Andretti’s cousin and uncle, Mario, were longtime fan favorites in the IndyCar Series and beyond.

But John Andretti developed his own fan base at Indy in part because he was the first driver to attempt the Memorial Day double - running in both the 500 and the 600-mile night race outside Charlotte, North Carolina.

Andretti made 49 consecutive IndyCar starts from 1990-92 before moving to NASCAR, where he started at least 29 races every season from 1994-2003. He won three times and helped raise money for Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis through his initiative Race 4 Riley.

He was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2017. Doctors later determined the disease had spread to his liver.

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

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