George Russell made an immediate impact with Mercedes, clocking the quickest time in Friday's first practice session ahead of the Sakhir Grand Prix. 

Russell has stepped in to replace absent world champion Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain after his fellow Briton tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. 

The 22-year-old's fastest lap was 54.546 seconds, putting him ahead of Red Bull pair Max Verstappen and Alex Albon, who were second and third respectively. 

Russell's fellow Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was fourth quickest, 0.322secs behind his temporary team-mate. 

This race will be staged on a different, shorter track configuration to the one used for the Bahrain Grand Prix last Sunday, a race Hamilton won.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff acknowledged it was a promising start for Russell but did not want to get carried away. 

"P1 was a good session for him," Wolff told reporters. 

"We need to calm everybody down - it was a first practice session on a really short track. But he delivered a really solid job in what we expect from him on a single lap. 

"The long runs were difficult with our car and difficult to establish a benchmark, because [Bottas] broke his car early on and it was difficult for him to stop it properly." 

Russell was loaned to Mercedes from Williams, who have promoted reserve driver Jack Aitken to their team for the penultimate round of the 2020 F1 season.

Anthony Watson will start in place of the injured Jonathan Joseph in England's only change for Sunday's Autumn Nations Cup final with France, who have been forced to field a second-string side.

Joseph sustained a calf injury in England's 24-13 victory over Wales last weekend as Eddie Jones' men made it three Pool A wins from three games in the inaugural competition.

Bath Rugby team-mate Watson, who returned from an ankle injury against Wales, has been selected on the right wing in a back three that includes Elliot Daly and Jonny May.

Max Malins and Joe Marchant are back among the replacements, with flanker Jack Willis being left out of the squad entirely.

"We're looking forward to this final, playing France and having another chance to win a trophy this autumn," said Jones, who guided his side to Six Nations success in October.

"This has been another positive learning week with tough, hard training and we're looking forward to getting on the pitch in front of our fans and playing a good game of rugby."

England's starting XV boasts more than 800 caps, which is in stark contrast to depleted opponents France.

Les Blues are without a number of key players due to an agreement between the national side and French clubs over playing limits.

Yoram Moefana has been drafted in for his first international start in place of Jean-Pascal Barraque at outside centre.

That is one of six changes made by head coach Fabien Galthie for the match at Twickenham that will see 2,000 fans back in attendance as coronavirus restrictions are eased.

Alivereti Raka, Selevasio Tolofua, Hassane Kolingar, Pierre Bourgarit and Baptiste Couilloud are also recalled, the latter to captain the side in Baptiste Serin's absence.

France reached the final by topping Pool B with wins over Scotland and Italy after being handed a 28-0 walkover victory against Fiji in their opener.

England team: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (c), Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Max Malins, Joe Marchant.

France team: Brice Dulin, Alivereti Raka, Yoram Moefana, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere, Matthieu Jalibert, Baptiste Couilloud (c); Hassane Kolingar, Pierre Bourgarit, Dorian Aldegheri, Killian Geraci, Baptiste Pesenti, Cameron Woki, Anthony Jelonch, Selevasio Tolofua.

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Rodrigue Neti, Uini Atonio, Guillaume Ducat, Sekou Macalou, Sebastien Bezy, Louis Carbonel, Jean-Pascal Barraque.

The quest to qualify for the NFL playoffs continues in Week 13, including an intriguing battle between two teams boasting 8-3 records as we get to the business end of the regular season.

Losing had become a horrible habit for the Browns in recent years, but now - behind the two-heading running attack of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt - Cleveland sits at 8-3, putting them firmly on course for a wildcard berth.

Next up for them is a trip to the Tennessee Titans, who leaned on leading rusher Derrick Henry to beat the Colts last time out and seize control of the AFC South. 

The latest round of games also includes a pivotal NFC West battle, while the Steelers have to deal with a short week and the Washington Football Team as they aim to remain unbeaten.



Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans - Sunday, 1pm (all times Eastern)

- The Titans are 10-5 against Cleveland since the Browns franchise came back in 1999, including winning the previous three meetings. Last season's 43-13 Tennessee win in Week 1 was the largest by either team in the series since the Oilers set a franchise record in a 58-14 victory on December 9, 1990. 

- Cleveland's 8-3 start is the team's best since 1994, when the Browns began 9-3 under Bill Belichick and went on to win a playoff game, the franchise's last postseason triumph. Victory in Week 12 put an end to a 12-year streak of losing seasons. 

- Baker Mayfield is the first Browns quarterback to win three straight starts without throwing an interception since Vinny Testaverde in September 1995. The previous Browns QB with four straight victories and no picks? Frank Ryan, back in 1967. 

- Tennessee are coming off a 45-26 win at Indianapolis, the Titans' most points in a game since 2016 when they put 47 on the Green Bay Packers. Ryan Tannehill attempted just 22 passes in that Week 12 triumph, though he set a season high at 10.05 yards per attempt.


Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals - Sunday, 4.05pm

- The Cardinals were held under 21 points for the first time this season in their 20-17 loss to the New England Patriots last time out. Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this year and posted a 67.0 passer rating in the defeat, the second-worst rating of his NFL career.

New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks - Sunday, 4.05pm

- These teams have split 18 all-time meetings. However, the Seahawks have won the past four, all by double digits. The most recent meeting was in 2017, a 24-7 Seattle triumph. The Giants last visited Seattle in 2014, a game  the home team won by a 38-17 scoreline. 

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs - Sunday, 8.20pm

- The Chiefs have won their past 10 games against the Broncos, the franchise's second-longest winning streak against any single opponent (11 games against Denver, from 1964 to 1969). Patrick Mahomes threw for 462 yards in the victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12, meaning he is now responsible for five of the 10 400-yard passing games by a Chiefs quarterback.

Buffalo Bills at San Francisco 49ers - Monday, 8.15pm

- The Bills have not had a 100-yard rusher in 16 games, the fourth-longest active streak in the NFL. Still, throwing the ball has worked just fine for them this season - Josh Allen has become the fourth Bill to pass for over 3,000 yards in consecutive seasons, joining Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jim Kelly and Tyrod Taylor.


New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons - Sunday, 1pm

- Taysom Hill is the second player in the Super Bowl era to score four rushing touchdowns through two career starts at quarterback, along with Eric Hipple, who did so for the Detroit Lions in 1981. However, the Falcons have improved under Raheem Morris, a 43-6 win over the Las Vegas Raiders last week meaning they are 4-2 since he took charge on an interim basis.

Washington Football Team at Pittsburgh Steelers - Monday, 7pm

- The Steelers are 11-0 for the first time in franchise history after beating the depleted Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday in a game delayed from Thanksgiving. Since 1970, nine of the 11 teams to start 11-0 have gone on to make the Super Bowl, including five that won it.

Jared Dudley is backing Anthony Davis to be NBA MVP in the 2020-21 season after securing a new contract with champions the Los Angeles Lakers.

Davis followed superstar team-mate LeBron James this week by agreeing to fresh terms in Los Angeles, the seven-time All Star having signed a five-year deal reportedly worth $190million.

The Lakers won their first championship since 2010 last year in the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort, defeating the Miami Heat 4-2 in the Finals.

Davis averaged 27.7 points in the postseason, placing him seventh in the overall standings and above James and MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Overall, he became the highest-scoring team-mate of James' career, averaging 26.1 points per game in his first year in LA following his trade from the New Orleans Pelicans.

The 27-year-old finished sixth in the voting last season and has never placed higher than third, but team-mate Dudley expects him to be primed to chase personal accolades.

"I'm expecting AD to go for the MVP," the Lakers forward said. "I'm expecting him to set the tone.

"We know [LeBron James], his years playing this league, the accolades he has, but AD doesn't have some of the accolades. He has the talent, he has the determination. He's the future and he's the now."

With Davis, James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tied down to new deals and smart recruitment in the form of Dennis Schroder and former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol, the Lakers have enjoyed one of the strongest offseasons.

Markieff Morris summed up the importance of the Lakers' business, saying: "We're led by the best player in the world, and then the second-best player in the world. Or 1A and 1B, however you want to do it."

Kyle Kuzma, whose own future remains uncertain, admits the success of last season has left him eager for more.

"It's a very good time for those guys," said Kuzma, the Lakers' top-scoring player off the bench last season with 11.4 per game. "Both very deserving.

"Obviously, bringing home championship number 17, those guys deserve it. They're helluva players obviously, don't need to keep repeating that. I'm very happy for those guys.

"I think [winning the championship] just puts more confidence under your belt. At the end of the day, you're a winner and that's something that no one can ever take from you. Especially being a part of it, being a key piece, it kind of just motivates you in a different type of light, you know.

"Especially going from you know, let's say you don't make the playoffs and your season ends early and you're motivated because you want to get into the playoffs. It's kind of the same thing winning the championship. You want to win more, you want to win and you just want to be successful and that's what it's brought."

He added on discussions over his own contract: "We've talked. It's obviously just talk between my agent and the organisation, they are working through things. We'll see."

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed outside linebacker Bud Dupree will miss the remainder of the NFL season due to a "significant" knee injury.

Dupree was placed on the reserve/injured list on Thursday after reportedly tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Wednesday's 19-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

The 27-year-old appeared to injure his knee during a non-contact play in the second half as the unbeaten Steelers went on to claim their 11th consecutive victory to open the season.

"You can characterise it as official that Bud is out for the year with a significant knee injury," Tomlin told reporters on Thursday.

Through 11 games, Dupree had 31 tackles, eight sacks, eight tackles for a loss, 15 quarterback hits, two passes defenced and two forced fumbles for the high-flying Steelers.

Dupree, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, is set to become a free agent after playing on a one-year franchise tag this term.

The Steelers improved to 11-0 – the 13th team to achieve the feat in the Super Bowl era – courtesy of their hard-fought victory against the coronavirus-hit Ravens midweek.

Philadelphia 76ers recruit Dwight Howard believes Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can click like the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA championship-winning duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Howard will play in Philadelphia in 2020-21 after teaming up with superstar pair James and Davis to help the Lakers to NBA glory last season.

Veteran big man Howard will now try to guide the 76ers to their first championship since 1983, combining with another All-Star duo – Embiid and Simmons.

Much has been said about franchise pillars Embiid and Simmons, and their compatibility as the 76ers prepare for life under new head coach Doc Rivers, who replaced Brett Brown following a first-round sweep at the hands of Eastern Conference rivals the Boston Celtics in 2019-20.

Eight-time All-Star Howard has advice for Embiid and Simmons, telling reporters on Thursday: "I've been in that situation multiple times, going to a team that has another star — Charlotte, Atlanta, Houston, L.A., D.C. — playing alongside other stars.

"Sometimes it can be difficult because you want to be that guy, and watching AD and LeBron, everything they did was together.

"They worked out together, they ate together, they rode bikes together. We called them the brothers. They were always playing together — playing video games, doing something. … Ben and Joel, they have to be that way.

"They have to know each other so much on and off the court that when they're playing, it's just natural. 'OK, I know Jo needs a touch right now, let me get him an easy bucket'. 'Ah, Ben is frustrated, let me set a screen for him, get him a couple dunks, couple shots at the rim just to get him going'.

"Once you're willing to give yourself up, great things tend to happen for you. … I can see that in Ben and Jo. Those two guys together, putting aside any ego, pride or anything, and saying, 'Hey, we're both for one mission, and that's to win a championship, and it starts and finishes with us two'.

"And I saw that with LeBron and AD. They put everything on their shoulders. They knew they had guys around them but it was, 'OK, LeBron. OK, AD. We've gotta do this, it starts with us. We've gotta be on the same page at all times'. And they did a really good job of it."

When Embiid and Simmons play, the 76ers boast a 119-65 win-loss record, per Stats Perform. But without one or both, they greatly suffer (67-94), Embiid's physicality in the paint and Simmons' superior defensive skills vital in Philadelphia.

The 76ers average 111.7 points, 107.5 opposition points, 47.4 rebounds and 26.4 assists per game with Embiid and Simmons involved, a clear improvement compared to when one or both miss a game – 106.7 points, 109.4 opposition points, 44.5 rebounds and 25.0 assists.

Philadelphia also have a superior field goal percentage (46.9) when Embiid and Simmons both play, with the 76ers shooting just 45.3 per cent without one or both. Opposition numbers also go up in their absence – field goal percentage (44.3 to 46.2) and three-point percentage (34.1 to 35.5).

"Playing alongside Jo and Ben, I think for me it's just giving them a sense that they can do anything," he said. "For Joel, it's just pushing him every single day to know that he's the best, and every time he steps on the floor he has to be the best player on the floor — whether that be practice, in the weight room, in the training room, during all the games. It's 'I'm the best player on the floor. I'm going to show it through my actions on offense and defense'.

"For me, it's really just cleaning up their mistakes, pushing them to be the best and just providing them with knowledge through my experiences. I see so much potential in Ben and Jo that I just want to see them succeed.

"I see so much potential out of those two — what they can bring to a team, the championships that they can have — just all the blessings they can get from playing this great game of basketball. I really just want to be that person to help push them toward their greatness."

Anthony Davis said there was no doubt he was returning to the Los Angeles Lakers after re-signing with the NBA champions.

Davis followed superstar team-mate LeBron James in extending his contract in Los Angeles, where the All-Star has reportedly signed a five-year deal worth $190million.

The seven-time All-Star – who helped the Lakers win the NBA title in his first season since arriving from the New Orleans Pelicans – had opted out of the final year of his previous contract, making him a free agent.

"I just wanted to take the process one day at a time," Davis told Spectrum SportsNet on Thursday. "Obviously winning the championship with L.A. was very great.

"The team Rob [Pelinka] put together and Jeanie [Buss] put together, and Linda [Rambis] and all the people in the front office was amazing, and we did something special. Especially with everything going on in 2020.

"I don't think there was a doubt that I was gonna come back, it was just trying to figure out the logistics and what was best for me and my family, and I was able to get a deal done today.

"So I'm excited about that and excited for what Dudz calls 'the Big Three', with him myself and 'Bron, so it's gonna be a great time.

"We've got another great task ahead of us, the team is looking great, guys have been working out, so I'm excited."

Led by Davis and James, the Lakers claimed their first championship since 2010 after topping the Miami Heat inside the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort in October amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Davis and James became the first pair of team-mates in NBA history to each have 500-plus points and 200-plus rebounds in the same postseason.

The first overall pick in 2012 by New Orleans, Davis averaged 26.1 points in the Lakers' title-winning campaign - the most by any team-mate of James' when appearing in at least 70 per cent of games.

Davis' numbers rose in the playoffs too, the 27-year-old averaging 27.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists as the Lakers lifted the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

He became the fifth player in league history to shoot 50-40-90 in the NBA Finals (.571 field goal percentage, .421 three-point percentage and .938 free-throw percentage), joining Kevin Durant, Chauncey Billups, Penny Hardaway and Magic Johnson.

"In the Orlando bubble, Anthony Davis proved he is one of the game's most complete and dominant two-way players," Lakers vice-president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka said.

"Now, Lakers fans get to watch AD continue to grow and lead our franchise for years to come. This is truly a blessed moment for Lakers Nation."

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer is optimistic over Giannis Antetokounmpo's future following productive and fruitful communication during the offseason.

Antetokounmpo is out of contract at the end of the 2020-21 season, when he will be eligible for a supermax contract extension worth around $254million.

It remains to be seen whether the two-time reigning NBA MVP will stay in Milwaukee or depart for pastures new amid links to the likes of the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks.

As the Bucks prepare for the start of the season, which tips off on December 22, Budenholzer told reporters: "The conversations with Giannis have been great this summer. He's incredibly supportive of us and everything we're trying to do to make this team the best it can be, and the same for us to support him.

"It's a big decision. I think the communication between he and I has been really good, really productive, fruitful.

"Same with [general manager] Jon [Horst], so we feel really good about the communication with Giannis throughout the summer and offseason."

Antetokounmpo averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during the regular season to become the first player to receive MVP honours in successive seasons since Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016.

The 25-year-old led the Bucks with 30.4 minutes per game during the regular season. In NBA history, there has only been one team to win the NBA title without having a player average at least 32 minutes per game in the regular season: the 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs.

Bucks team-mate Khris Middleton added: "I have a lot of respect for Giannis. In my situation last year, he told me how he felt, and that's all I can do in return.

"I think we're more than friends at this point. We've spent eight years together. We've been through a lot together also, so, at the end of the day, I want him to do what's best for him and his family.

"He knows that I deeply want him to return and sign this extension, but at the same time, I know he's got a big decision that he's got to work through himself and with his family at home because those are the most important people.

"Whatever he does, he knows that I'll support him to the fullest, so I've talked to him. I give him my two cents and my opinion or try to convince him, but at the end of the day, I'm going to always love him and appreciate whatever he has to do."

The Bucks – eyeing a first championship since 1971 – suffered disappointment in the playoffs last season, going out in a 4-1 Eastern Conference semi-finals series loss to the Heat.

Milwaukee owned a league-best 56-17 record, but their form faded dramatically following the restart at Walt Disney World Resort amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bucks became the first team in NBA history to have more losses (4-9) in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire campaign prior to that (52-8).

"We always embraced and feel fortunate that we feel we have the roster, we feel like we have players that are incredibly talented on both ends of the court and we're in the mix to be the last team standing," said Budenholzer, whose team will begin their season against the Boston Celtics on December 23.

"But, there's a process that every team's got to go through to get there. I think the goal is real, the opportunity is real, but I think that if you're an organisation or a team that doesn't embrace that, you're probably maybe in the wrong business, but at the same time, to think that a season is championship-or-bust is certainly not the way we've approached it.

"We really embrace competition, we embrace the playoffs, we embrace the opportunity and we want to be that last team standing, but that phrase is just something that doesn't resonate with me or, I think, our group or organisationally."

Houston Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said he is giving star James Harden "space" amid trade rumours, though he is confident the former NBA MVP will still be with the team when the 2020-21 season gets underway.

Harden reportedly wants to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets, where he would reunite with former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate Kevin Durant and team up with Kyrie Irving.

Talk of Harden's future has been further amplified after Russell Westbrook was dealt to the Washington Wizards in exchange for John Wall on Wednesday.

But first-year coach Silas, who replaced Mike D'Antoni, is confident regarding Harden in Houston.

"When stuff like this kind of happens where there's a little indecision and stuff going on, I kind of take a step back and allow guys some space," Silas told reporters on Thursday.

"From my perspective, my communication has been, 'I'm giving you space,' and that's kind of where it's been as far as my communication with him.

"Guys like that need that. They need to figure it out, and they don't need someone banging on them all the time to kind of figure out where they're at and whatnot."

Harden has called Houston home since 2012 and signed a contract extension through to the 2022-23 season in 2017, but the sharpshooter reportedly turned down a new deal and wants to leave the Rockets in pursuit of a maiden championship.

In 2019-20, points scored by Harden and points scored off his assists averaged 52.4 per game. It followed 53.9 in 2018-19, 51.3 in 2017-18 and 56 the season previous.

That marked four successive seasons with 50-plus points per game created, tying Oscar Robertson (1963-64 to 1966-67) for the longest streak in NBA history.

Harden averaged 34.3 points, 7.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game for the Rockets, who lost in the Western Conference semi-finals at Walt Disney World Resort.

"I'm confident that he'll be all-in," Silas said. "That's where I'm leaving it. As I said, I'm giving him his space to do his thing, but I'm confident that he'll be here when we get started."

Silas added: "Everybody is excited about the possibilities that we have. Us having multiple ways to play on both ends of the floor and having the talent of DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall and Christian Wood to meld with the previous guys that were on the team.

"James is going to have the ball a lot, like he has in the past. Like I said, we're not going to change things so drastically that the offense isn't going to be as effective as it has in the past.

"We're going to try to change things to make it a little bit more diverse, but he's going to have the ball quite a bit."

Russell Knox earned a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico.

Scottish golfer Knox carded a six-under-par 65 to set the early pace at El Camaleon Golf Club on Thursday.

Knox only dropped one shot on day one of the PGA Tour tournament, holing seven birdies to top the leaderboard ahead of Joaquin Niemann, Emiliano Grillo – who extended his streak of par-or-better rounds in the event to a perfect 17-for-17 – and Tom Hoge.

A two-time Tour champion but without a title since 2016, Knox has claimed just two over-par scores in 29 rounds at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo.

In his seven previous starts at the event, Knox claimed top-10 finishes in 2015 (tied for second), 2016 (T3) and 2017 (T9), while the most recent of his two 18-hole leads/co-leads before this week came via this season's Safeway Open (T9).

Viktor Hovland, Tony Finau, Carlos Ortiz, defending champion Brendon Todd, Aaron Wise, Nate Lashley, Akshay Bhatia and Michael Gligic are two shots off the pace.

In his first start since claiming his maiden Tour title at the Houston Open, Ortiz posted his 16th consecutive round of par-or-better this season.

Rickie Fowler ended the round one under par, four-time major champion Brooks Koepka posted a 71 to be six shots behind Knox heading into the second day, while Justin Thomas was a stroke worse off.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Josh Gordon could play during the final two weeks of the regular season after being conditionally reinstated by the NFL.

Gordon will be eligible to return to the field for the final two games, starting with the Week 16 showdown against the Los Angeles Rams, before the playoffs following Thursday's announcement.

The Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowler was suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL's policies on performance-enhancing substances and substances of abuse in December last year.

Gordon, who was signed by the Seahawks in November 2019, was banned for a fifth time in eight years over a substance abuse issue.

The 29-year-old can begin coronavirus testing on Friday and will be permitted to join the team starting December 9 for team meetings, individual meetings with the coaching staff and for individual workouts and strength conditioning.

Gordon cannot practice, travel with the team or attend games until December 21, following Seattle's Week 15 clash against the Washington Football Team.

The former Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots receiver has played in 63 games since entering the NFL in 2012 and he has made 247 catches for 4,252 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Gordon appeared in five games prior to his suspension last season, catching seven passes for 139 yards in Seattle.

The Seahawks top the NFC West with an 8-3 record, ahead of the Rams (7-4).

NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers confirmed the re-signing of superstar LeBron James on Thursday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but James has reportedly agreed a two-year, $85million contract extension after leading the Lakers to their first championship since 2010.

James celebrated a fourth league title as the Lakers topped the Miami Heat inside the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort in October amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He also earned his fourth Finals MVP, becoming the first player in NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL history to win the Finals MVP with three different teams, having also received the honour with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Heat, per Stats Perform.

"LeBron James is a transcendent basketball player, and human being," said Lakers vice-president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka.

"LeBron put his trust in the Lakers in 2018, and now this contract extension paves the way for LeBron to further solidify his legacy as an all-time Lakers great.

"We could not be more honoured by this commitment."

James joined the Lakers from the Cavaliers in 2018-19, but he struggled for form and fitness during his maiden season in Los Angeles.

The 35-year-old – who set the record for most postseason appearances with 260 – had a point to prove in 2019-20 and he capped it with championship and MVP honours.

In his 17th season, James moved clear of Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan with a fourth Finals MVP – now only trailing Michael Jordan (six).

James is the fourth player all-time to score 30,000-plus points and win four or more championships. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tops the list with 38,387 points and six titles, ahead of Michael Jordan (32,292 points and six titles) and Kobe Bryant (33,643 points and five titles).

Last season, James appeared in 67 games and averaged 25.3 points, a career-best and league-leading 10.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds per games, while he averaged 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the playoffs.

One of six players in NBA history to average 25 points and 10 assists in a single season, James earned a league-record 13th All-NBA First Team selection, while being selected as an All-Star for the 16th time in his career.

James also moved to third on the league's all-time points list and eighth on the all-time assists list, while becoming the first player to record a triple-double against all 30 current NBA franchises.

The Lakers will open their 2020-21 campaign against city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers on December 22.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow underwent successful surgery on a knee injury suffered last month, the NFL franchise announced.

Burrow – the NFL's number one draft pick – reportedly tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) in Cincinnati's 20-9 loss to the Washington Football Team on November 22.

The rookie QB was carted off after being hit low while throwing in the third quarter at FedExField.

"Joe Burrow underwent successful surgery yesterday [Wednesday]," the Bengals said in a statement on Thursday. "The procedure went as planned and he is expected to make a complete recovery.

"Joe will begin the recovery process and we look forward to his return."

Burrow was producing strong numbers in his debut season with the Bengals in the NFL prior to the injury.

Through 10 games, Burrow completed 65.3 per cent of passes for 2,688 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Burrow's five interceptions are the least in the league alongside Andy Dalton of the Dallas Cowboys, with under-fire Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz (15) recording the highest number.

The 23-yeard-old Burrow also rushed for 142 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries.


Australia or Argentina must do something miraculous on Saturday to rip the Tri Nations title from New Zealand's grasp.

With the All Blacks boasting a points differential of plus 64, the Wallabies need a bonus-point win with a margin of at least 101 points.

The task facing the Pumas, who also need a bonus point, is only slightly less daunting as Mario Ledesma's side must outscore their opponents by 93.

With such lofty targets to hit, this weekend's clash in Sydney is more about signing off from the competition in style than any remote prospect of actually winning it.

Nonetheless, these two sides drew in their meeting on matchday four, making it an intriguing fixture even if silverware is not realistically on the line.

We use Opta data to preview the showdown as the 2020 Tri Nations draws to a close.


Australia are enduring a tough time, with Dave Rennie's side having won only one of their previous six Tests, although that victory was against New Zealand on matchday two.

The Wallabies' record against the Pumas offers scope for encouragement for the hosts, who have lost just one of the teams' past 10 meetings.

Argentina have proven particularly stubborn in the first half of matches, conceding only one try before the break in their four games so far in the Tri Nations.

On the flip side, Ledesma's charges have allowed six second-half tries.


Argentina's Nicolas Sanchez has the best goal-kicking accuracy in the competition this year, nailing 85.7 per cent of his attempts. His tally of 40 points is the second best return of any player at the tournament.

Tom Wright has proven a formidable force for Australia, gaining 9.9 metres per carry, putting him top in that category of players who have made at least 10 carries.

When the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards swapped point guards Russell Westbrook and John Wall on Wednesday, it was undoubtedly one of the blockbuster trades of the offseason. 

But while the names and pedigrees of the players are well known, neither star shines as bright today as he once did, and the current value of each player remains a mystery.  

In a way, the careers for Wall and Westbrook have followed similar paths. Both were drafted as prospects with a rare combination of athletic gifts but had unrefined games. Both developed into All-Stars who peaked in the 2016-17 season, and have since declined since receiving massive contract extensions.  

But while Wall's descent has been due to injury, Westbrook has played his way out of elite status despite his many accomplishments.  

Westbrook will begin the season with his third different team in as many seasons, and it is clear the league does not value him at the level his statistical prowess would suggest.  

The 2016-17 league MVP is a reasonable 32 years old and is coming off a season in Houston in which he averaged 27.2 points per game and shot a career-high 47.2 percent from the field. Westbrook even had a 38-game stretch during which he scored over 30.0 points per game and shot over 50 percent, the longest of his career.  

But the nine-time All-Star's 25.8 percentage from three-point range last season – one of the five worst marks ever with at least 200 attempts – and overall shot selection have left him with the reputation as an exciting stat-stuffer whose weaknesses exclude his team from serious contention.  

Not to mention that Westbrook's numbers plummeted in the NBA's Disney campus bubble after he recovered from COVID-19 in July, and the long-term effects of the coronavirus are still being researched.  

Westbrook will – or at least should – play second fiddle to incumbent Wizards star Bradley Beal, whose scoring has increased in each of the previous five seasons and reached 30.5 points per game in 2019-20.  

But perhaps the fit could be mutually beneficial if Westbrook abandons his errant long-range shooting and focuses on attacking the basket, opening up shots for Beal and fellow sharp-shooter Davis Bertans.  

The team has a logjam of frontcourt players including Thomas Bryant, Robin Lopez, Ian Mahinmi, Rui Hachimura and Moritz Wagner – perhaps necessitating another trade – but the Wizards should be in a position to at least compete for a playoff spot in the East.  

However, Westbrook has worn out his welcome with two teams in two years, while Beal may find shots harder to come by, if his new teammate takes 22.5 shots and commits 4.5 turnovers per game as he did last season.  

Wall's future contributions, though, are a complete wildcard.  

After weeks of rumours circulating that James Harden wanted a different running mate in Houston, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the three-time scoring champion told Rockets brass he would prefer Wall to Westbrook.  

Much like Westbrook, Wall's numbers peaked in 2016-17, when he played 78 games and averaged 23.1 points and 10.7 assists while leading the NBA in steals.  

The next season he played 41 games and missed large stretches with knee soreness. In 2018-19, Wall returned to average 20.7 points and 8.7 assists in 32 games before requiring surgery for recurring heel soreness. After his surgical site became infected, he slipped and fell in his home in February 2019, tearing his Achilles tendon.  

While rehabbing in preparation for the 2019-20 season, Wall tore the ACL in his left knee last August, keeping him out the entire campaign.  

When the upcoming season tips off on December 22, it will have been two full years since Wall played in an NBA game.  

While he is two years younger than Westbrook, such an extensive injury history makes him an enormous risk for the Rockets, who are already undergoing organisational change after the departure of longtime general manager Daryl Morey.  

The history of players returning from Achilles ruptures is checkered, ending the careers of many role players and perhaps even accelerating the end of Kobe Bryant's career. One positive example is that of Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins, who suffered the injury midway through the 1991-92 season at 32 years old.  

Wilkins returned to play 71 games the following season while averaging 29.9 points and making a career-high 1.7 three-pointers per game.  

But Wilkins avoided the knee issues that Wall has suffered in recovery.  

With a torn Achilles and ACL, Wal's injury history is most similar to that of DeMarcus Cousins, who also joined the Rockets this offseason after signing a one-year, $2.33million contract.  

The risk for Houston is extremely high, with Wall signed through the 2022-23 season and scheduled to make over $47m in the final year of his deal, albeit Westbrook's contract runs just as long.  

The Rockets have tried out various co-stars in an effort to enable Harden to lead the franchise to the NBA Finals but have come up short each time. Wall and Cousins bring All-Star talent but a truckload of baggage and uncertainty.  

Earlier this offseason, when Harden was mentioned in trade rumours involving the Brooklyn Nets, the Rockets showed no public interest in moving their offensive juggernaut.  

But as Harden's supporting cast becomes increasingly volatile, the Westbrook-for-Wall swap could be the boom-or-bust move that signals the final chapter of the Harden era in Houston.  

Romain Grosjean has returned to the scene of last week's frightening crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix, an incident which left Ferrari's Charles Leclerc fearing the worst.

The Haas driver's car split in two and became engulfed in flames after making contact with Daniil Kvyat and crashing through a safety barrier at high speed.

He somehow escaped with only burns to his hands and was discharged from hospital on Wednesday.

Just four days on from the crash, Grosjean was welcomed back to the paddock with bandages on both of his hands and his left foot.

Grosjean was greeted by FIA Medical Car driver Alan van der Merwe and FIA medical delegate Ian Roberts, who were the first on the scene and potentially saved the 34-year-old's life.

Another of those to witness the crash up close was Leclerc and the Ferrari driver is amazed Grosjean is still alive.

"I saw the crash in my mirrors, was aware straight away that it was extremely serious and I thought the worst straight away," Leclerc, whose godfather Jules Bianchi suffered fatal head injuries in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, told BBC Sport.

"I have to be honest, I didn't have much hope only watching it in the mirrors and I was extremely worried on the radio.

"Unfortunately, there was no news until I got back into the pits and got out of the car to finally know he was out, which I couldn't really believe, especially because coming into Turn 9, I saw the flames and the fire."

The horrifying crash has resulted in changes to some barriers for this coming weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix, which is taking place at the same circuit as the Bahrain Grand Prix, albeit with an altered layout.

No blame was apportioned to Kvyat for the collision, which was not investigated by stewards, but the Russian acknowledged it has been difficult to focus on racing again.

"I saw him making contact and there was not much I could do to avoid that," he said at Thursday's weekly media conference. "Of course I think in the first lap these things happen. 

"I was first angry that I saw the car cut across like this. But then immediately I watched in my mirrors and I could see the fire, the explosion. 

"It was a very strange emotion, strange feeling. I never saw something like this in all my racing career. To see this, like something you see only in the movies, was a bit shocking to be honest.

"I was a bit worried at first when I came in the pit lane, of course, about him. But then luckily they told me and they showed the footage of him being OK. I was relieved.

"But of course the image stays with you. It wasn't easy to get back in, to be honest. But it's my job so I just pressed the reset button and now go again."

Stoffel Vandoorne was hurt and disappointed by Mercedes' decision to name George Russell as Lewis Hamilton's replacement for this weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix.

Seven-time F1 champion Hamilton has been ruled out of the penultimate race of the 2020 season after testing positive for coronavirus on Monday.

Mercedes reserve drivers Vandoorne and Esteban Gutierrez seemed natural fits to stand in for Hamilton, but the seat instead went to Russell, with Williams agreeing to release the 22-year-old Briton.

Vandoorne, who flew to Bahrain on Tuesday to provide cover for Hamilton, took to social media to air his displeasure but says he respects the Silver Arrows' decision.

"Firstly, I want to wish Lewis Hamilton a speedy recovery and hopefully he'll be back in the car asap! Nobody can really replace him!" he posted in a statement on social media.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed not to get the chance to drive for Mercedes this weekend. After having spent the year travelling to all F1 races and dedicating so much time, physical training, commitment to this programme… it hurts!

"On the other hand, I respect the choice of putting George Russell in the car. He has been one of the standout drivers and he fully deserves this opportunity.

"It's moments like these that make my drive even bigger and I can assure you I'm going to continue giving 100 per cent."

Some have suggested Mercedes development driver Russell is effectively auditioning for a Silver Arrows seat in 2022, but he is unconcerned by that talk.

"There have been no targets expected of me by Mercedes because you can't judge somebody off one race," he said. "It's not in the back of my mind. I'm going to go out there, enjoy it and learn as much as I can.

"I have a job to do on my return to Williams and try and push that team forward. I need to take this opportunity with both hands and maximise the learning.

"The future will be judged over the course of a season, and what's happened in the past, not just one or maybe two races."

Russell will team up with Valtteri Bottas, who is the favourite to win his third race of the season in Hamilton's absence.

Bottas, who has only finished higher than eighth in two of the past five races, is determined to succeed in Bahrain.

"For me, it's a great motivation to have a new team-mate," he told Sky F1. "Obviously I'll try to be ahead of him and win the race, that's the only thing on my mind.

"Being a part of the team for a few years, obviously everyone would expect me to be on pole and win the race. That's my goal.

"I'll try to end this season on a positive note. I'll try to make the most out of it and hopefully that can help me for the future.

"I'm sure this young, hungry guy will give it all he's got. He's a talented guy and he's super excited to be in the team."

But Bottas, under contract with Mercedes until the end of next season, acknowledged there is some added pressure to finish ahead of his temporary team-mate.

"If he beats me, for sure it wouldn't look so good on me if I had a normal race fair and square, so I try to avoid that," he said.

"But I'm not a person who thinks like that. I try to turn things into motivation and positive thinking and that's my mindset for this weekend."

Romain Grosjean's horrific crash has resulted in changes to some barriers for the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Last Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix was red flagged on the first lap after Haas driver Grosjean made contact with Daniil Kvyat and crashed through a barrier between turns three and four at high speed.

Grosjean's car split in two and became engulfed in flames but he was able to climb out and get to safety.

He did not suffer any fractures and was taken hospital due to burns to his hands. He was discharged on Wednesday but remains in Bahrain for private treatment.

Formula One boss Ross Brawn promised a "deep investigation" into the incident and, ahead of this weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix – which will take place at the same circuit, albeit with an altered layout – the barrier Grosjean hit will be reinforced with two rows of tyres.

Notes from F1 race director Michael Masi revealed two other safety changes.

"The tyre barrier on the right-hand side of T9 [turn nine] will be extended and increased in depth to four rows of tyres with conveyor belt," Masi confirmed.

"The right-hand kerb between T8 and T9 will be removed to reduce the risk of a car becoming airborne while the outer circuit layout is being used."

Lewis Hamilton went on to win the Bahrain Grand Prix after the race was restarted, though the world champion will not feature this weekend after testing positive for coronavirus.

Week 13 marks the final game of the regular season in most fantasy leagues. 

That means if you have already booked your place in the playoffs, then the pressure is off somewhat and you don't have to worry about getting the line-up balance exactly right. 

However, if you are still fighting to get into the postseason, it is all or nothing and having the perfect line-up is imperative. 

Here we try to offer guidance as to who should be starting in this most important of weeks, highlighting four players and one defensive unit that are worthy of being trusted in the regular-season finale.


QB Kirk Cousins - Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings' offense is rolling and Cousins has posted back-to-back 300-yard games in which he has thrown for three touchdowns, though he has lost a fumble in each. 

There is a strong chance that run continues against the one-win Jacksonville Jaguars, who are allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Look for Cousins to take full advantage of an extremely favourable matchup and further boost Minnesota's playoff hopes.

RB: Raheem Mostert - San Francisco 49ers

Like the Vikings, the 49ers kept their season alive with a win in Week 12, with Mostert marking his return from an ankle injury with a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. 

It was otherwise tough sledding for Mostert, who finished with 43 yards against a stingy Rams run defense. 

The Buffalo Bills should present a less daunting challenge in that regard. They are 25th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game and only seven teams have conceded more fantasy points to opposing running backs. 

This is a matchup in which Mostert should return to top form.

WR: DeVante Parker - Miami Dolphins

Parker is coming off an eight-catch, 119-yard game against the lowly New York Jets and faces another accommodating defense in Week 13.

The Bengals are allowing 25.1 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers and, after being targeted 14 times in the win over the Jets, Parker is likely to have plenty of opportunities to exploit the Cincinnati defense.

TE: Trey Burton - Indianapolis Colts

For fantasy managers in the unfortunate position of having to consistently stream tight ends, Burton stands out as an excellent option this week.

He has a touchdown in each of his past two games and gets the chance to go against a vulnerable Houston Texans defense that is 23rd in the league in passing yards allowed per game.

D/ST: Pittsburgh Steelers

If you have the Steelers' defense in fantasy, you are starting them. However, it is worth highlighting the extent of the appeal of their Week 13 matchup with the Washington Football Team. 

Washington quarterback Alex Smith has started three games and has been pressured on 29.5 per cent of his dropbacks this season, the second-highest rate in the NFL. He has also been intercepted five times in as many appearances in 2020. 

Pittsburgh lead the NFL with a pressure rate of 33.3 per cent and have the most takeaways in the NFL with 23. The Steelers' defense should feast en route to another victory in a campaign many expect to end in a Super Bowl appearance.

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