Thursday’s Sports in Brief

NBA Basketball

PRO BASKETBALL

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)The Memphis Grizzlies broke the NBA record for margin of victory, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 152-79.

The 73-point margin easily topped the previous mark, which was Cleveland’s 68-point win over Miami. The Cavaliers topped the Heat 148-80 on Dec. 17, 1991.

Memphis used 12 players and nine of them reached double figures in scoring, with Jaren Jackson Jr.’s 27 points leading the way for the Grizzlies. Memphis was without its best player, injured guard Ja Morant.

It was 72-36 at halftime and the Grizzlies just kept adding to the lead, eventually pulling ahead by as many as 78 points.

LOS ANGELES (AP) – LeBron James has been cleared to return to the Los Angeles Lakers after missing one game under the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

The league said James is not positive for COVID-19 despite a series of tests that produced conflicting results earlier this week. Additional testing cleared James to play when the Lakers host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.

James got an initial positive test from a sample collected Monday. The sample was retested twice, producing one positive and one negative result. James underwent additional testing Tuesday, but those tests returned one negative result and one clinically inconclusive result, according to the league.

James subsequently had two negative PCR tests conducted more than 24 hours apart, meeting the criteria necessary to return to play.

BASEBALL

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – Hours into Major League Baseball’s first work stoppage in 26 years, Commissioner Rob Manfred and union head Tony Clark presented diametrically opposed views of each side’s negotiating positions that point to a lengthy lockout.

In separate news conferences less than a day into baseball’s ninth work stoppage, Manfred said the union’s proposal for greater free agency and wider salary arbitration would damage small-market teams.

Clark, the first former player to head the union, accused Manfred of ”misrepresentations” in his letter to fans explaining the lockout, and said ”it would have been beneficial to the process to have spent as much time negotiating in the room as it appeared it was spent on the letter.”

”It’s unnecessary to continue the dialogue,” Clark said of the lockout. ”At the first instance in some time of a bumpy water, the recourse was a strategic decision to lock players out.”

The dispute threatens the start of spring training on Feb. 16 and opening day on March 31.

PRO FOOTBALL

NEW YORK (AP) – Antonio Brown and two other NFL players have been suspended immediately for three games by the league for violating COVID-19 protocols.

The Tampa Bay wide receiver and teammate Mike Edwards were suspended Thursday. Free agent John Franklin III, if signed by a team, is also ineligible to play in the next three games.

All three players have accepted the discipline and waived their right of appeal. The suspensions are effective immediately.

The NFL Players Association, which developed the protocols along with the league, represented the three players during a review of the recent allegations that players misrepresented their vaccination status. Brown, Edwards, a cornerback, and Franklin, a defensive back who last played for the Bucs in 2019, were found in violation of the protocols.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall is stepping down after the Cavaliers play their bowl game, abruptly ending his tenure at the school after six seasons.

The surprising announcement came in a news release. In a hastily organized conference call with reporters, Mendenhall said the decision was his alone and that both athletic director Carla Williams and university president Jim Ryan asked him to stay.

”It’s just a chance after 31 years straight to step back, and renew and recover,” the 55-year-old Mendenhall said, adding he did not view this as permanently leaving coaching.

”Holly, my wife, is a little shocked, too,” he said.

Mendenhall said he told his staff at 4:45 p.m. EST and his team at 5 p.m. before getting on the call with reporters at 5:30 p.m.

FIGURE SKATING

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) – The figure skating Grand Prix Final next week has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic for the second season in a row.

The Dec. 9-12 event in Osaka, Japan, was the only global event matching the best skaters across all four disciplines before the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February.

”Unfortunately, considering the complicated epidemic situation involving travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, safety concerns and logistical challenges, the organization of the event was extremely challenging,” the International Skating Union said.

The Japanese government has barred entry for most foreigners without existing links to the country against a backdrop of concern over the spread of the new omicron variant.

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