NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: Harden upgraded to doubtful for Nets-Bucks Game 5

By Sports Desk June 15, 2021

The Brooklyn Nets could yet be boosted by the return of James Harden on Tuesday after he was upgraded to doubtful.

Harden had initially been ruled out of Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The former Houston Rockets star has been managing a hamstring injury since the start of April.

Harden, who had been making an MVP run prior to the initial setback, returned in the closing stages of the regular season.

He then averaged 27.8 points per game in the first-round series against the Boston Celtics but bowed out 43 seconds into Game 1 at home to the Bucks.

 

The potential for Harden to feature in Game 5 lifts the Nets, who have also now lost Kyrie Irving to an ankle issue.

Having gone 2-0 up against Milwaukee without Harden, Brooklyn lost both games on the road to level the series.

Kevin Durant has led the team with 29.8 points per game in the series but was limited to nine-of-25 shooting in Game 4.

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  • India thrash Zimbabwe by 10 wickets in opening ODI India thrash Zimbabwe by 10 wickets in opening ODI

    India eased to victory in the first ODI against Zimbabwe, winning by 10 wickets in Harare on Thursday.

    The hosts began poorly as they found themselves 31-4 after the first ball of the 11th over, with none of the top four batsmen scoring double figures.

    They continued to struggle up to 110-8 after less than 30 overs, before a partnership of 70 from Brad Evans (33 not out) and Richard Ngarava (34) put some respect on the eventual total of 189 all out, captain Regis Chakabva top scoring with 35.

    It did not seem like 190 would be enough to repel India, and sure enough the tourists made light work of it as openers Shikhar Dhawan (81 not out) and Shubman Gill (86 not out) chased it down themselves off just 30.4 overs.

    Zimbabwe have lost their last 13 men's ODIs against India, which was already their longest losing streak against them in the format, having last beaten them in June 2010.

    India have now won their last five away men's ODI matches. The last time they won as many consecutive matches on the road was a stretch of five in June 2019.

    The second of the three-match series takes place in Harare on Saturday.

  • LeBron agrees extension: How James became the NBA's highest-paid player LeBron agrees extension: How James became the NBA's highest-paid player

    Whenever people talk about the NBA, one name is rarely far away from any conversation.

    LeBron James is once again the talk of basketball after reports emerged on Wednesday he had agreed a two-year extension with the Los Angeles Lakers worth an eye-watering $97.1million.

    The 37-year-old had been entering the final year of a contract worth $44.5m. His new deal includes a player option for the 2024-25 season according to ESPN, citing Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul.

    James' deal takes him to $532m in guaranteed career earnings, which would mean he is the highest-paid player in the history of the league, ahead of Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets.

    Apart from having four NBA championships, four Finals MVPs, four NBA MVPs, 17 All-Star selections and three All-Star MVPs, what has James done to earn such a lucrative deal?

    Stats Perform has taken a trip down memory lane to remind ourselves just why he is still the hottest property in the NBA.

    Breakout in Cleveland

    As the first pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, it was hardly surprising that James impressed from the start with the Cavaliers, averaging 20.9 points per game (PPG) in his debut season from 79 games.

    It was the 2005-06 season where he really exploded, though, averaging 31.4 PPG in the regular season, which remains his highest ever for a campaign, before recording 30.8 PPG in the playoffs, where the Cavs were eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals by the Detroit Pistons.

    James took Cleveland to the postseason for five straight seasons, agonisingly losing the 2007 Finals to the San Antonio Spurs, before taking the mantel again in 2009 as he put up 35.3 PPG in 14 playoff outings before Conference final heartbreak against the Orlando Magic.

    He had become a superstar in his home state of Ohio, though it seemed like championship glory was always going to elude him in Cleveland and so in 2010, it was time for a decision.

    LeBron brings the Heat

    The television event titled 'The Decision' did not go down universally well, it is fair to say, as James dramatically revealed he was leaving the Cavs for the Miami Heat.

    However, it turned out to be the catalyst for him to reach the next step as he was undoubtedly surrounded by more talent in Miami, and before long, much-deserved silverware.

    Linking up superbly night after night with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, James reached the Finals every year in Florida, winning his first championship in 2012, before following it up in 2013 with another.

    His numbers were ever so slightly lower at the Heat than they had been in Cleveland, though that clearly owed to having more help from the likes of Wade and Bosh.

    James' first title win 2012 saw him average 30.3 PPG during the postseason, and led the way as he got some revenge on the Spurs in 2013, excelling in Game 7 to win his second championship.

    The Cavalier returns home

    In 2014, James came back to Cleveland with the desire to take his team to the promised land with him this time, and he did just that.

    Just as he had in Miami, James went to the Finals every year of his second spell with the Cavaliers, and every year they played against the dominant Golden State Warriors.

    After losing 4-2 in 2015, they returned to get revenge in 2016 as James starred on their way to an almost Hollywood-ending win against the Warriors, securing their first NBA championship.

    They were unable to repeat the trick as the Warriors beat them in both the 2017 and 2018 Finals, but reaching four Finals in a row was still more than Cavs fans could have realistically expected.

    Unfortunately for them, James was getting itchy feet again.

    L.A. dreams not always what they are cracked up to be

    James himself had a solid enough start to life in Los Angeles, posting 27.4 PPG for the Lakers in 2018-19, though injury issues sustained by him and several of his new team-mates led to a wobbly season, and therefore, no postseason for the first time for James since 2005.

    Inevitably, he came roaring back the following year and in spite of the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, James and the Lakers returned to win the "bubble championship", the fourth title of his career with a third different team.

    However, the 2020-21 campaign was one to forget as James recorded his lowest PPG for a season (25.0) since his rookie year, before the Lakers were dumped out of the playoffs in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.

    Was it all over for LeBron? Not likely. He responded to that setback by scoring 1,695 points in just 56 games last season at an average of 30.3 PPG, his best regular season return since 2005-06.

    James also reached a notable landmark in March, becoming the first player in NBA history to record 10,000 assists and 10,000 rebounds in a career.

    Unfortunately for him, his team-mates were unable to match those efforts and the Lakers again failed to even make the playoffs, which could be why they were so desperate to find the funds to tie James' immediate future down.

    His PPG has been higher in the playoffs than the regular season at every team he has played barring the Heat, where it was identical (26.9), proving the extent to which he is a clutch player and why it is imperative that the Lakers reach the postseason next year to make the most of the time they have left with him.

    Injuries permitting, it is also practically certain he will overtake Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA's all-time leading scorer next season (currently 1,325 points behind).

    Now that his new deal is agreed, you can be sure when that landmark arrives, LeBron will be wearing the same Lakers jersey Kareem did so famously.

  • Vuelta a Espana: Roglic aims for historic success as Valverde has his last dance Vuelta a Espana: Roglic aims for historic success as Valverde has his last dance

    Primoz Roglic will set out on a mission to create cycling history as the Slovenian gets his Vuelta a Espana campaign under way on Friday.

    The 77th edition of the Grand Tour starts in Utrecht, with the opening three stages taking place across the Netherlands before the caravan transfers to Spain.

    It is only the fourth time that the Vuelta has started outside of Spain, after doing so in Portugal in 1997, the Netherlands in 2009 and France in 2017.

    Spanish riders have won 32 of the previous 76 editions, but not since 2014 has a Spaniard triumphed, when Alberto Contador tasted glory.

    It is the longest wait for a Spaniard champion in the race's history, and in the last three years, it is Roglic who has dominated.

    Meanwhile, Alejandro Valverde, the 2009 champion, will bid goodbye to his home Grand Tour.

    Roglic's shot at history

    Roglic won his first Vuelta title in 2019 and successfully defended in 2020, despite his heartbreaking defeat to Tadej Pogacar at that year's Tour de France.

    He crashed out of Le Tour in 2021 but bounced back in style, winning Olympic gold in Tokyo before clinching a third-straight Vuelta triumph to match the feats of Tony Rominger (1992 to 1994) and Roberto Heras (2003 to 2005).

    Now, Roglic has history in his sights. Only Heras has won the Vuelta on four occasions, but no rider has ever won it over four successive years.

    The 32-year-old Roglic's Tour de France again ended early this year, as he watched team-mate Jonas Vingegaard storm to success and set up a rivalry with Roglic's compatriot Pogacar that should enthral for years to come; but at the Vuelta, Roglic is Jumbo-Visma's main man.

    Roglic has won the Vuelta in all of his three appearances, reaching nine stage wins in this period, more than any other rider (Fabio Jakobsen is the next best, with five to his name). He also claimed the points ranking in both 2019 and 2020, and could equal Erik Zabel (three) as joint-second on the all-time list for that classification, behind Sean Kelly, Valverde and Laurent Jalabert (four each).

    "Of course the record gives me more motivation, it's special," said Roglic in a press conference on Thursday. "We're going to fight for that."

    There are some concerns over his fitness after the injury he suffered at Le Tour, however.

    Roglic said: "At certain moments I still feel some pain, but it is already much better than before. We'll see. If I get to the start here, it means I'm ready too. But I'll have to wait and see in the coming days and weeks to find out how it really goes."

    Roglic could also feasibly set a record for the most stages wearing the red leader's jersey. He is currently level with Herras on 36, 12 behind Alex Zulle's haul of 48.

    A last dance for Vuelta veterans?

    Valverde, of Movistar, will be making his 16th Vuelta appearance. The 42-year-old has achieved more podium finishes in the general classification than any other rider, having done so on seven occasions, including his 2009 success.

    If he completes the race, Valverde, who has won 12 individual stages at La Vuelta, will equal Federico Etxabe, Chente Garcia Acosta and Inigo Cuesta as riders who have finished the most times (14).

    "To win a stage would be incredible," Valverde said on Thursday. "I don't believe I will be at the same level as the best during 21 days, but we do have a team-mate who can be among the top three or perhaps even win. What I see for myself is that I will try to win a stage."

    Chris Froome, meanwhile, is a two-time Vuelta champion who is out to prove himself once more.

    The seven-time Grand Tour winner has been struggling with COVID-19 in the build-up this time but is set to make his eighth appearance in the race, having finished on the podium four times, taking the 2011 and 2017 titles.

    The first of those victories was only awarded to Froome in 2019 after original race winner Juan Jose Cobo was disqualified for a doping offence.

    In a stellar career, Froome has become the first British rider to win all three of the biggest races in cycling.

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