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Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield warms up before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield warms up before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)


Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield smiles as he answers questions during a news conference after an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Cleveland. The Browns won 26-18. (AP Photo/David Richard)


Browns’ Mayfield racking up awards, leading Browns revival

By TOM WITHERS

AP Sports Writer

Wednesday, December 26

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Baker Mayfield’s reaping rewards for his stellar rookie season.

Cleveland’s cocky and charismatic quarterback was voted winner of the Joe Thomas Award — player of the year — on Wednesday by the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. In addition, Mayfield, whose play has sparked the biggest one-season turnaround in club history, was selected AFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing three touchdown passes in a win over Cincinnati.

After years spent looking for their franchise QB, the Browns (7-7-1) appear to have found him in Mayfield, the No. 1 overall draft pick who is 6-6 as a starter entering the season finale at Baltimore.

Mayfield has thrown 24 TD passes, two shy of the NFL rookie record shared by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson.

Browns guard Joel Bitonio was selected as the Dino Lucarelli Good Guy Award winner for his cooperation with the media for the second straight year.

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Serena voted AP Female Athlete of the Year for 5th time

By BRIAN MAHONEY

AP Sports Writer

Thursday, December 27

She showed up in Paris wearing a black catsuit, a reminder that nobody can command the Grand Slam stage quite like Serena Williams.

She reached the finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, proving again how well she can play no matter how little she practices.

Williams didn’t win those or any other tournaments, which in every other situation might have made for a forgettable year.

In 2018, it was a remarkable one.

Her rapid return to tennis after a health scare following childbirth was a victory in itself, and for that, Williams was voted The Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for the fifth time.

Williams received 93 points in balloting by U.S. editors and news directors announced Wednesday, while gymnast Simone Biles was second with 68. Notre Dame basketball player Arike Ogunbowale was third, while Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim and swimmer Katie Ledecky, the 2017 winner, rounded out the top five.

All of those players won a title or titles in 2018, while Williams had to settle for just coming close a couple of times.

Now 37 and a new mother facing some players who weren’t even born when she turned pro in 1995, Williams isn’t the same person who ruthlessly ran her way to 23 Grand Slam singles titles — the last of which came at the 2017 Australian Open when she was pregnant.

“I’m still waiting to get to be the Serena that I was, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be that, physically, emotionally, mentally. But I’m on my way,” Williams said on the eve of the U.S. Open final. “I feel like I still have a ways to go. Once I get there, I’ll be able to play even hopefully better.”

The Male Athlete of the Year will be announced Thursday.

The women’s award has been won more only by Babe Didrikson Zaharias, whose six wins included one for track and five for golf.

Williams’ previous times winning the AP honor, in 2002, 2009, 2013 and 2015, were because of her dominance.

This one was about her perseverance.

Williams developed blood clots after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. on Sept. 1, 2017, and four surgeries would follow. She returned to the WTA Tour in March and played in just a pair of events before the French Open, where she competed in a skin-tight, full-length black catsuit .

She said the outfit — worn partly for health reasons because of the clots — made her feel like a superhero, but her game was rarely in superstar shape. She had to withdraw in Paris because of a right pectoral injury and didn’t play again until Wimbledon, where she lost to Angelique Kerber in the final.

Williams came up short again in New York, where her loss to Naomi Osaka in the final will be remembered best for her outburst toward chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who had penalized Williams for receiving coaching and later penalized her an entire game for calling him a “thief” while arguing.

That loss leaves her one major title shy of Margaret Court’s record as she starts play next year in a WTA Tour that will look different in part because of new rules coming about after issues involving Williams. Players returning to the tour may use a “special ranking” for up to three years from the birth of a child, and the exemption can be used for seedings at big events. Also, the tour says players can wear leggings or compression shorts at its tournaments without a skirt over them.

Williams insists she is still driven to play and win as much if not more than before she was a mother. That drive is the focus of a Nike ad showing her in action.

“Getting this far, crazy,” it says. “Stopping now, crazier.”

Williams won’t.

“I’m still on the way up,” she said. “There’s still much more that I plan on doing.”

The rest of the top five:

Simone Biles, gymnastics . The American won four golds and six medals overall in the world championships in Qatar, giving her 20 in her career to tie Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina for the most by a female gymnast.

Arike Ogunbowale, women’s basketball . She hit one jumper to knock off previously unbeaten Connecticut in the Final Four, then a 3-pointer in the championship game to lift Notre Dame over Mississippi State.

Chloe Kim, snowboarding . At 17, the Californian won the halfpipe Olympic gold medal in South Korea, where her parents were from before they immigrated to the United States.

Katie Ledecky, swimming . The 21-year-old U.S. Olympian tuned up for the 2020 Games in Tokyo by winning five medals in the city at the Pan Pacific Championships.

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Indian casinos across US wary of betting on sports books

By REGINA GARCIA CANO

Associated Press

Wednesday, December 26

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Two dozen large-screen TVs showing football and other sports line the walls. There’s beer on tap, bar top seating and leather chairs. Chicken wings are on the menu. And at this American Indian casino in the heart of college-football mad Mississippi, you can legally bet on the games.

The sports book owned by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is the first to open on tribal lands outside of Nevada following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, a no-brainer business decision given the sports fans among its gambling clientele.

“We are basically two hours from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and then, we are just an hour from Mississippi State. We have Ole Miss just to the north of that, and we have Southern Miss — they’re not SEC, but they are a player. We are not that far from Louisiana,” said Neal Atkinson, the tribe’s director of gaming.

The book at Pearl River Resort is packed every college football Saturday, but remains an outlier months after the high court opened the door for expanded sports gambling across the United States by striking down a federal ban.

Tribes enthusiastically welcomed the decision in May but since then, the regulatory challenges and low-margin nature of the business have sunk in. Few Indian casinos have an enviable location like the Choctaw and many need state approval to add sports betting to their offerings.

Indian casinos started small three decades ago, but they have grown to be an annual $32.4 billion segment of the U.S. gambling industry. The roughly 475 casinos operated by nearly 240 tribes create jobs for tribal members and profits that help pay a variety of services, including health care and housing.

Some casinos only have games like bingo or pull tabs that don’t need state approval. But the majority of them also have state-authorized slot machines, blackjack and other table games, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Many tribes share a portion of casino profits with state governments in exchange for exclusive rights to conduct gambling operations within their states.

To offer sports betting, the majority of tribes would have to renegotiate compacts that vary widely in cycles and the issues covered, though some tribes believe their existing agreements already give them the right to offer the new wagers.

“There’s a broad spectrum in Indian Country covering two extremes: Tribal nations that would not benefit at all, and on the other end, tribal nations that would significantly benefit,” commission chairman Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri said. “Those are largely business decisions that each tribe will have to make given its own economic landscape and its unique market realities.”

Some federal lawmakers have also proposed regulating sports gambling more widely, adding yet another layer to a complex debate already involving commercial casinos and lotteries, plus sports leagues themselves.

So far, only the Santa Ana Pueblo near Albuquerque, New Mexico, has followed the Choctaw’s effort into sports gambling. Neither tribe was required to obtain additional state approvals.

Contrary to popular belief, sports betting is a low-profit business that requires highly skilled employees. In Nevada, sportsbooks last year contributed only 2.4 percent of the gambling revenue of casinos statewide — dwarfed by the proceeds from table games and slots. The limited payoff has tribal casinos balancing the allure of a Las Vegas-style amenity with the risks of opening compacts for negotiations.

“Tribal leadership is extremely protective of what they have because it’s meant so much to us, and there’s always a risk of upsetting the apple cart,” Washington State Gambling Commission member Chris Stearns said. “Is this going to help us? Is this going to hurt us? That’s really at the heart of why you see Indian tribes gently venturing into sports betting. … In a lot of states, tribes write a check out to the state in exchange for exclusivity. So, any time there’s a new gambling product, and you ask the state to authorize it, there is a risk the state will say ‘Sure, but it is going to cost you.’”

The only sports book in New Mexico, inside the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel, began taking wagers in October. It offers bets on professional and college sports, but not for games involving two public in-state universities.

In Washington state, all casinos are tribally operated. Changing the state’s laws to allow betting on sports would require a 60 percent supermajority vote in the legislature or a ballot initiative. Only then could sports betting be added to a tribal-state compact.

In California, where tribes have exclusivity on casino-style gambling, voters would have to approve a change to the state constitution.

Casinos are operated on and off reservations in South Dakota. Before the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe can try to to edge out its nearest competition across the state line in Iowa, South Dakota’s constitution will have to be amended through a public vote.

The legislature could choose to put the question before voters or supporters could gather enough signatures to add the measure to the 2020 ballot. If the measure passes, it would open the opportunity for tribes to negotiate their compacts with the state.

Tribal councilman Kenny Weston said a sports book could attract new patrons who may also choose to play games already offered and spend nights at the hotel for big sporting events, like MMA fights.

“Normally, with the brick-and-mortar casino like we have, we attract a lot of older crowds and retired people,” Weston said. “I think with sports betting we can bring a different age demographic and different people … and have the opportunity to do the same that they do in Vegas.”

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Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reginagarciakNO

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Lakers lose LeBron James to groin injury, rout Warriors

By JANIE McCAULEY

AP Sports Writer

Wednesday, December 26

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — LeBron James prides himself in his durability, being available night after night, game after grueling game.

That’s why the Lakers star is so mad he got hurt.

The Los Angeles Lakers lost LeBron in the third quarter to a strained left groin then went out and beat the two-time defending champions without him Tuesday night, getting King James’ 17 points, 13 rebounds and five assists before the injury in a surprising 127-101 rout of the Golden State Warriors.

“I take a lot of pride in it,” James said of always playing. “That’s why it (angered me) not to be able to go back into the game. It’s more than anything being available to my teammates, being available to my coaching staff. That’s something I take more personal than anything. Hopefully it’s not a long thing.”

James grabbed at his left groin area with 7:51 left in the third after slipping under the Warriors’ basket while trying for a loose ball. He tried to stretch it out, awkwardly walked toward the Lakers bench trying to loosen up before leaving on his own though gingerly out the tunnel for the locker room.

“I wasn’t able to go back into the game, obviously. I’ll get an MRI tomorrow and see what’s up,” James said. “With me with injuries, I’m never too concerned about them. I was able to walk off on my own power. I felt a pop, see if I could stretch it a few times, see if it would relieve but it didn’t. … I did a couple exercises to see if I could continue to go but I didn’t feel like it would benefit my team or me. So I came back and got a jump start on the rehab.”

He is scheduled for an MRI exam Wednesday and coach Luke Walton is preparing to be without James on Thursday night in Sacramento.

James has played in 156 straight games overall and 116 in the regular season. And he’s not about to guess whether he will have to miss time.

Stephen Curry made consecutive 3s shortly after James exited, and the Warriors got within 78-76 at the 2:48 mark of the third — but Kyle Kuzma and the persistent Lakers stayed at it every possession. Curry wound up with 15 points but the home fans had seen enough well before the final buzzer and headed out for the rest of Christmas.

“They played like they had nothing to lose. They played like they had a free swing,” Curry said. “Everybody who touched the ball was aggressive. They just had a different look in their eye and we weren’t able to match that. They went out and won the game, that’s basically it.”

Kuzma contributed 19 points with a pretty baseline 3 late, Ivica Zubac had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Rajon Rondo 15 points and 10 assists off the bench as the Lakers snapped an 11-game losing streak on the Warriors’ home floor since a 118-115 overtime win Dec. 22, 2012. Los Angeles also ended a seven-game skid overall in the rivalry with its first win in the series since March 6, 2016.

James made it look easy early on shooting over Jonas Jerebko and Kevon Looney. James hit a turnaround jumper at the 4:39 mark of the second quarter to put the Lakers ahead 52-37 and L.A. led 65-50 at the break.

It was James’ second straight Christmas game at Oracle Arena after playing here with the Cavaliers last year and losing 99-92.

Walton — a former Warriors top assistant and dear friend of Steve Kerr — got some time with his Hall of Fame dad, Bill, before the game and a few moments to catch up with Curry and share holiday greetings in the hallway after the two-time MVP’s warmup routine.

Kevin Durant, playing on a tender left ankle, had 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Andre Iguodala came off the bench and made his initial five shots and 7 of 9 by halftime on the way to a season-high 23 points while also handling some of the load defending James.

Golden State shot just 9 for 36 from deep, Curry going 2 of 8 and Durant 3 for 8.

MCGEE’s RING DELAYED

Lakers center JaVale McGee was still sick with a respiratory infection and missed his fifth straight game, didn’t travel and missed his scheduled moment to receive his championship ring. That will now happen Feb. 2 when the Lakers return to Oracle Arena.

McGee was one of three big men who rotated in Steve Kerr’s rotation on the way to a repeat title.

“I’m happy for JaVale. He’s getting more of a chance to play with the Lakers than he did with us,” Kerr said. “We had a lot of centers play a really important role for us the last couple of years. He was fantastic and we loved having him here. Wish he was here and that we could give him his ring today, but we’ll do it next time. Very happy for him and his success this year.”

TIP-INS

Lakers: Zubac shot 9 for 10. … The Lakers had lost three of four, so this meant a lot. … Los Angeles improved to 5-6 on the road vs. the Western Conference. … Tyson Chandler, who had been questionable with back spasms after he missed Sunday’s game against Memphis, returned and played 15-plus minutes.

Warriors: Iguodala reached double figures for the fourth time this season. … Curry and Draymond Green each picked up two early fouls, and Green fouled out with 5:36 left. He was limited to four points, five assists and five rebounds.

UP NEXT

Lakers: At Sacramento on Thursday.

Warriors: Host Portland on Thursday.

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Pelicans’ Gentry defends LeBron James on tampering charge

By DAN GREENSPAN

Associated Press

Saturday, December 22

LOS ANGELES (AP) — New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry made it clear Friday that center Anthony Davis will not be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers or anywhere else as long as he remains under contract to the Pelicans.

Gentry’s stance on comments by Lakers forward LeBron James about Davis was less consistent.

Gentry defended James against allegations of tampering, hours after declaring an interview with ESPN earlier in the week in which James said it would be “amazing” if the Lakers traded for Davis represented an effort to interfere with the Pelicans’ star.

“We keep talking LeBron James, LeBron James, LeBron James,” Gentry said prior to the game between New Orleans and Los Angeles on Friday night. “He was asked a question and he answered it, you know. If he doesn’t answer it, then you guys talk about him not answering it. If he answers it, then everybody says he’s tampering. I think it puts him in a bad situation.”

Gentry clarified his comments in a reversal from his press conference following the Pelicans’ shoot-around Friday morning in which he said James’ answer about Davis was tampering. “Yes, it is. Why would it not be?” Gentry said earlier on Friday when he was asked if James had committed tampering.

Gentry intimated that players should be held to a different standard when talking about potential future teammates than coaches or league executives discussing potential player acquisitions and signings.

“I’m not a player,” Gentry said. “I’m a coach, so I think it’s a little bit different when you put him in that situation. I’m not sure how he’s supposed to handle it anyway. You asked him a question. He answered. That’s it.”

As for James’ assertion that he would love to play with Davis, the 25-year-old who is averaging 28 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, Gentry said, “Who wouldn’t?”

Davis is under contract with New Orleans through the end of the 2020-21 season, but speculation about a possible move to Los Angeles intensified after he signed with agent Rich Paul and Klutch Sports Group in September, as Paul also represents James.

However, Gentry said Davis would not be leaving New Orleans for the foreseeable future.

“He’s under contract for another year and a half so that’s the easy part on our side,” Gentry said. “We have no intentions of trading him and we’re not going to trade him and that starts at the top all the way from our owner all the way down to the last ball boy on our team.”

At least Gentry seemed to be having fun with the controversy. When asked about Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, who played for Gentry in New Orleans last season, Gentry joking replied, “I can’t talk about him. He’s under contract.”

Gentry then waited a beat. “I had to do that,” he said.

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Antetokounmpo powers Bucks past Knicks in Christmas debut

By BRIAN MAHONEY

AP Basketball Writer

Wednesday, December 26

NEW YORK (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo was so eager to make a rim-rocking Christmas debut that he overshot the basket on his first attempt, a dunk from one side that ended with the ball all the way in the opposite corner.

“I was so excited that I went a little bit too high and I thought the rim was a foot taller,” Antetokounmpo said.

He and the Milwaukee Bucks eventually settled down and showed they belonged on the holiday stage.

Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 14 rebounds, and Milwaukee celebrated its return to the Christmas schedule by beating the New York Knicks 109-95 on Tuesday.

“This is one of the highest stages,” Antetokounmpo said. “Special teams play Christmas Day, and just it’s an opportunity for us and we’re really happy.”

Brook Lopez scored 20 points for the Bucks, who played on Christmas for the first time since 1977. They were selected for the showcase slate of games largely because of Antetokounmpo but the timing also was perfect to show an emerging team, which improved the NBA’s second-best record to 23-10.

Malcolm Brogdon finished with 17 points for the Bucks, the NBA scoring leaders who bounced back from a season-low 87 points in a loss to Miami on Saturday to win for the fifth time in six games.

“People come to see Giannis play but they’ve got to watch all of us, so it’s definitely a great opportunity for the rest of us to showcase as a team what we can do,” Brogdon said.

Rookie Kevin Knox scored 21 points for the Knicks, who have lost six straight Christmas Day games and fell to 22-31 in their NBA-record 53 appearances on the holiday.

“It’s on me to stay even in this whole thing, not be up and down emotionally because I (have) to keep their spirits up,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “They feel it. They’re human.”

New York has lost five in a row and 10 of 11 since rallying to stun the Bucks 136-134 in overtime on Dec. 1 at Madison Square Garden.

Antetokounmpo was angry that night with Knicks forward Mario Hezonja, who had dunked over him in the first quarter, then stared and stepped over him. Antetokounmpo felt it was disrespectful, vowing to punch Hezonja in the groin next time.

The Greek Freak was perhaps a little too pumped for the rematch — Brogdon grabbed the rebound of his errant dunk in the corner and fired in a 3-pointer — but he quickly got untracked.

It was only a seven-point game midway through the third quarter when Antetokounmpo began to seize control. His jumper followed by layup pushed the lead into double digits, and he scored 11 points in the Bucks’ 36-point period that ended with them leading 84-68 cushion.

“We played them really (well) in the first half — down two — in the locker room felt pretty good,” Knox said. “But that third quarter, defensively, offensively, just something slips with us.”

Noah Vonleh had 14 points and 15 rebounds, while Tim Hardaway Jr. had 14 points and 10 boards but shot just 4 for 18 for New York.

TIP-INS

Bucks: Antetokounmpo was chosen Eastern Conference player of the week on Monday, the third time this season he’s won the award. He was also voted the player of the month in the conference for October-November. … The Bucks are 3-2 on Christmas.

Knicks: Rookie G Allonzo Trier had eight points in 18 minutes after missing seven games with a strained left hamstring. … Hezonja didn’t play. … The Knicks haven’t won on Christmas since beating Boston in 2011 in what was the NBA season opener following the lockout.

ADVANTAGE, BUCKS?

Both coaches were asked about the idea that a Christmas Day game favored the visiting team, which could treat it as a regular road game while the hosts were at home, perhaps surrounded by family celebrating the holiday.

Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer dismissed the notion, saying the Bucks brought plenty of family members and had a big team dinner on Christmas Eve so they could mix basketball and the holiday.

Fizdale’s thoughts?

“Well, I look at this team, Milwaukee’s coming in with an advantage anyway,” he said with a laugh. “They’re a better team than us right now.”

KNICKS’ KNOX

Knox had his third straight 20-point outing. He came in averaging 20.3 points in his previous seven games.

UP NEXT

The teams complete their season series Thursday night at Milwaukee.

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Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield warms up before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/12/web1_122025006-2ea8f8e85ada4a02a59ec804ae6379ab.jpgCleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield warms up before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield smiles as he answers questions during a news conference after an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Cleveland. The Browns won 26-18. (AP Photo/David Richard)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/12/web1_122025006-10b14a61627d4d6a8012e6824575dd9f.jpgCleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield smiles as he answers questions during a news conference after an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Cleveland. The Browns won 26-18. (AP Photo/David Richard)
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