Doncic knows he’s learning in first NBA Finals, but Mavs star isn’t conceding to Celtics

Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks talks to the media at a press conference during the 2024 NBA Finals Practice and Media Availability on June 13, 2024 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Getty Images via AFP)
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Updated 14 June 2024
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Doncic knows he’s learning in first NBA Finals, but Mavs star isn’t conceding to Celtics

  • A rough first finals for the 25-year-old superstar, no doubt — an injury-filled postseason punctuated by fouling out for the first time in his playoff career
  • Doncic: They’ve still got to win one more game. Like I said, we’re going to believe until the end

DALLAS: Luka Doncic winced ever so slightly as he stepped onto the stage to address reporters a day after his Dallas Mavericks fell behind Boston 3-0 in the NBA Finals.

A rough first finals for the 25-year-old superstar, no doubt — an injury-filled postseason punctuated by fouling out for the first time in his playoff career, thanks to a four-foul fourth quarter in a 106-99 loss to the Celtics in Game 3.

Near the end of six seasons filled with comparisons to LeBron James, here’s another for Doncic. Just like the player he idolized as a teenager, Doncic is on the verge of having to weather failure on basketball’s biggest stage before getting more chances to experience the ultimate success.

“I didn’t really study the first finals of some people,” Doncic said Thursday, the eve of Game 4 in Dallas with the Celtics on the verge of an 18th championship, which would break a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most in the NBA.

Doncic did remember the first Eastern Conference finals — two, actually — for Michael Jordan in Chicago a generation ago.

“Obviously, there’s the story of MJ against Detroit,” the five-time All-Star said. “That was a big thing. I think he just learned from it. You’ve got to go through lows first to go on top. I think that’s great experience.”

After finally breaking through against the Pistons, Jordan won the title in his first trip to the NBA Finals in 1991, the start of a 6-0 run in the title series over an eight-season span.

Doncic is at risk of the same fate in his first finals as James, who was swept with Cleveland against San Antonio in 2007. James lost again with Miami — against Dallas, no less — in 2011 before winning back-to-back titles with the Heat.

Asked if he thought his game could improve in the offseason, Doncic said, “Oh, definitely, a lot of holes,” before reiterating he would learn plenty from his first finals. Then he paused.

“But we’re not in the offseason yet,” Doncic said. “They’ve still got to win one more game. Like I said, we’re going to believe until the end.”

The end is near for Dallas because Doncic didn’t get enough help from co-star Kyrie Irving in the first two games, or from his supporting cast in any of the first three.

Still, the Slovenian sensation has had his own difficulties, particularly in Game 3. The Celtics relentlessly targeted Doncic’s defense, which has been solid to good overall in these playoffs.

The four fouls came so quickly in the fourth quarter, his sixth forced a challenge that Dallas lost with 4:12 remaining. The Mavs were on a 20-2 run when Doncic was disqualified, and scored again to get within a point before Boston held on to avoid blowing a 21-point lead with 11 minutes remaining.

With a long history of complaining to officials, Doncic made a point earlier in the playoffs to go back to having fun. He’s had trouble sustaining it, and didn’t have kind words for the refs after fouling out in regulation for the first time in his career.

“I just really want to win,” Doncic said. “Sometimes I don’t show it the right way, but at the end of the day, I really want to win. I’ve got to do a better job showing it a different way.”

Doncic is 3 for 3 on miserable fourth quarters in the finals, with more turnovers (four) than baskets (three) and zero 3-pointers. Before the rare foul-out (the third of Doncic’s career), he sat most of the fourth with the Celtics comfortably in front in Game 1.

Dallas’ best closer hasn’t been closing in this series, and added a chest contusion to a postseason litany of ailments that included a sprained right knee and a sore left ankle.

Although the chest injury — sustained in Game 1 — was the only one on the latest injury report, it’s significant enough that Doncic confirmed to ESPN the network’s report that he had been taking a pain-killing injection by acknowledging he would probably have another one before Game 4.

“My message to him is he’s not alone in this,” said Irving, who bounced back from a sluggish offensive start to the series with 35 points in Game 3. “He’s played as best as he can despite the circumstances, just injuries and stuff. He’s been giving it his all. It’s not all on him.”

The spotlight in still on him, just as it was for Jordan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and James before the first of his four titles nearly 20 years ago.

“I think the history is there for us to learn from, when you look at great players and the struggles,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “But the great ones, they use that going into the next season or the next couple seasons to try to get back there because now they understand experience is a big thing.”

Doncic won’t do that until this season is officially over.


Moussa Diaby joins Al-Ittihad from Aston Villa

Updated 14 sec ago
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Moussa Diaby joins Al-Ittihad from Aston Villa

  • Moussa Diaby joins fellow Frenchmen Karim Benzema and Ngolo Kante in Jeddah

RIYADH: Frenchman Moussa Diaby has joined Al-Ittihad, the club announced on Thursday.
The 25-year-old midfielder played 54 games for English Premier League side Aston Villa, including 25 appearances last season during their impressive fourth place finish.
Al-Ittihad posted an announcement video with the player wearing Ittihad’s black and yellow jersey.
“Hello Tigers, I am here,” Diaby announces in the video, holding a vintage rotary phone.
The left-footed Diaby, a pacy and versatile player, is not known for scoring lots of goals but his attacking threat will be an advantage for the Tigers.
He joins fellow Frenchmen Karim Benzema and Ngolo Kante in the west coast city.
Ittihad had a disappointing season last year after winning the Saudi Pro League title a year earlier.
The Jeddah side has brought in veteran French player Laurent Blanc as coach to boost their chances against the other big three clubs in the SPL: Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr and Al-Ahli.
Ittihad are currently in pre-season training in Spain and will play Seville on Friday.


Egypt and Dominican Republic grind out goalless draw in their Paris Olympics opener

Updated 24 July 2024
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Egypt and Dominican Republic grind out goalless draw in their Paris Olympics opener

  • Peter Gonzalez has the ball in the net for the Dominicans in the 13th minute but referee disallows it for a foul on Egyptian defender Hossam Abdelmajeed
  • Egypt are competing in the Olympics football contest for the 13th time, the most of any African nation, while the Dominican Republic are making their debut

PARIS: Egypt and the Dominican Republic battled their way to a scoreless draw on Wednesday in their opening Group C match on the first day of the men’s soccer tournament at the Paris Olympics.
The Dominicans, who are playing for the first time ever in the football competition at the Games, had the ball in their opponents’ net in the 13th minute, courtesy of Peter Gonzalez, but the referee ruled it out over a foul Egyptian defender Hossam Abdelmajeed.
Both teams had chances throughout the match, which took place at Nantes’ Stade de la Beaujoire, but goalkeepers Xavier Valdez and Hamza Alaa were not to be beaten on the day. Alaa made a great save to tip away a Gonzalez free-kick in the 70th minute, and his Egyptian teammates worked hard to grab a winner late on but the Dominican defense refused to yield.
Egypt are competing in the Olympics football contest for the 13th time, the most of any African nation, but has never finished higher than fourth place, which it achieved in Amsterdam in 1928 and Tokyo in 1964. The team made reached the quarter-finals at Tokyo 2020, losing 1-0 to Brazil.
It had been hoped that Mohammed Salah might join the Egyptian side as a senior player at the Olympics but he declined to do so, opting instead to focus on Liverpool’s preseason preparations. Former Arsenal midfielder Mohammed Elneny captained Egypt.
Earlier, Spain, silver medalists in Tokyo three years ago, kicked off their Group C campaign with a 2-1 victory over Uzbekistan at the Parc des Princes. Their squad included two members of their Euro 2024-winning squad: Alex Baena and Fermin Lopez.


England’s Brook ‘won’t get ahead of myself’ after first home Test hundred

Updated 24 July 2024
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England’s Brook ‘won’t get ahead of myself’ after first home Test hundred

  • Brook’s dashing 109 helped lay foundation for England’s 241-run win over West Indies 
  • Twenty-five-year-old has five centuries now, with his first four 100s scored abroad

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: England’s Harry Brook has no intention of letting success go to his head following a first Test century on home soil.
Brook’s dashing 109 helped lay the foundation for England’s 241-run win over the West Indies at Trent Bridge, a result that put the hosts 2-0 up in a three-match series ahead of this week’s finale at Edgbaston.
The 25-year-old Brook has now scored five Test hundreds, with his first four centuries scored abroad against Pakistan and New Zealand.
Brook’s average of 62.54 after 23 innings is the highest since Australia hero Don Bradman, widely considered to be Test cricket’s greatest batsmen, among players with over 1,000 runs in the format.
“I’ve only just started,” said Brook. “That could definitely fluctuate either way. I’ve not even played 25 innings in Test cricket yet so I won’t be getting ahead of myself.
“I’ll just keep enjoying playing Test cricket. Hopefully I can keep it that high but if not, so be it.”
At Trent Bridge, Brook shared a stand of 189 with Yorkshire team-mate Joe Root, who also scored his first Test century of the season.
Brook, whose 363 runs against Australia last year, helped draw the Ashes, said while he was glad to learn from Root, he was also determined to stay true to himself as well.
“I want to be my own batter, I want to be Harry Brook, not anybody else.”
But he added: “Rooty has just gone eighth in the all-time Test runs list, so I’d be stupid to not be tapping into his cricket knowledge.
“I was glad to get it (the hundred) on the board, being my first in England.
“I was nearly getting to the spot where I thought, ‘God, I need a hundred in England’. I didn’t get a big one in the Ashes last year, but I was happy with my performances.”
Brook withdrew from the Indian Premier League earlier this year following the death of his grandmother, having previously pulled out of England’s five-Test tour of India in January due to personal reasons. He later revealed his grandmother was “ill and didn’t have long left.”
And it was his grandmother Pauline, one of his biggest supporters, who was uppermost in Brook’s mind when he reached three figures in Nottingham.
“It was the first (century) with family there and obviously loads more English fans as well, it was a very nice moment.
“I’m not a massive celebrator at a hundred, I just try to soak it all in. I did it all for my grandma.
“As soon as I got it, it was just like, ‘Yes, a hundred’. But a couple of moments later I got a bit emotional inside, I just didn’t show it. I was thinking about her.”
England have four Tests left to play this season, with Sri Lanka arriving for a three-match campaign starting in August.
And for Brook, an in-demand multi-format player, Test cricket is still the pinnacle.
“I want to play every Test match I can for England,” he said. “Test cricket and playing for England is my priority.”


France struggles with its hijab rules for Olympics opening ceremony

Updated 24 July 2024
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France struggles with its hijab rules for Olympics opening ceremony

  • Thousands of athletes, including some who wear a hijab, are arriving for the Paris Olympics
  • Sylla, part of France’s 400-meter relay team, wrote on her Instagram account on Monday that her hijab would prevent her from appearing in Friday’s blockbuster opening ceremony

PARIS: French government and Olympics officials are seeking a creative solution to allow Muslim French sprinter Sounkamba Sylla to wear her hijab at the opening ceremony while still complying with the country’s secularism laws, they said on Wednesday.
Thousands of athletes, including some who wear a hijab, are arriving for the Paris Olympics, placing an international spotlight on tensions in France over national identity and perceived discrimination against Muslims.
Sylla, part of France’s 400-meter relay team, wrote on her Instagram account on Monday that her hijab — a head covering worn by many Muslim women — would prevent her from appearing in Friday’s blockbuster opening ceremony along the Seine River.
“You are selected for the Olympic Games, organized in your country, but you can’t take part in the opening ceremony because you wear a scarf on your head,” Sylla posted on her account.
She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim minority, enforces laws to protect the principle of secularism under which state employees and school pupils are banned from wearing religious symbols and clothing in public institutions. Rights groups say these rules effectively discriminate against Muslims.
Eager to avoid an embarrassing domestic flap with the entire world watching, French government and Olympics officials said they were willing to find a solution for Sylla, although it remains unclear what that could be.
“Our citizens expect us to follow these principles of secularism, but we also need to be inventive about solutions to make everyone feel good,” Amelia Oudea-Castera, minister for sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Games, said on Wednesday, adding that Sylla “understands our principles, our rules.”
Foreign athletes are not affected by the secularism rules.
David Lappartient, president of the French Olympic Committee, said the French Olympic team was “taking part in a public service mission and in this respect it is obliged to observe secularism.”
He acknowledged that the French approach “is sometimes incomprehensible in other countries,” but said there was still time to find solutions before the gala ceremony.
Numerous French sporting authorities have banned women from wearing religious head coverings, such as in football, basketball, judo and boxing, according to Human Rights Watch.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not have rules against wearing religious head coverings.
Maria Hurtado, spokeswoman for the UN high commissioner for human rights, criticized the French government in September last year over its stance on the hijab for French athletes during the Olympic Games, saying that “no one should impose on a woman what she needs to wear, or not wear.”
Le Parisien newspaper reported that Sylla might participate in the Olympics opening ceremony wearing a cap.


IMG signs 5-year deal to become broadcast producer of Saudi soccer events

Updated 24 July 2024
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IMG signs 5-year deal to become broadcast producer of Saudi soccer events

  • The partnership with the Saudi Pro League and Saudi Arabian Football Federation will start next season and cover Roshn Saudi League, Saudi Super Cup and King Cup matches
  • ‘The SPL is poised to deliver an unparalleled football-viewing experience to fans around the world through technology, innovation and talent,’ says SPL CEO Omar Mugharbel

RIYADH: The Saudi Pro League and Saudi Arabian Football Federation have agreed a new five-year production-partnership deal with global sports, events and representation company IMG.
Beginning next season IMG will take the role of broadcast producer for the Roshn Saudi League, King Cup and Saudi Super Cup, with the aim of providing best-in-class production quality, innovation and consistency across the events.
The organizations said on Wednesday said that broadcasts in coming seasons will feature more dynamic storytelling and captivating content highlighting the excitement of the matches and celebrating the culture and passion that drive the sport.
This will enable partners to provide deeper insights and elevate the levels of engagement and entertainment, they added, to enhance the viewing experience for fans around the world and foster a deeper connection with the league.
SPL CEO Omar Mugharbel said the agreement represents a significant step forward for the league as its transformation and growth continues on and off the pitch.
“Our collaboration with IMG reflects our commitment to bringing world-class production standards to Saudi football, with the league the central host producer,” he added.
“By leveraging the expertise of IMG and maintaining strong partnerships with local and regional distributors, the SPL is poised to deliver an unparalleled football-viewing experience to fans around the world through technology, innovation and talent.”
Barney Francis, IMG’s executive vice president of studios, said: “The Saudi Pro League is one of the most exciting and fastest-growing leagues in global football, with fans around the world now tuning in to watch thrilling action between some of the game’s biggest stars.
“In today’s battle for attention, it’s critical for rights holders to take control of their narrative and innovate. We are excited to help SPL take its content offering and storytelling to the next level for viewers and broadcasters, and to provide opportunities for local broadcast and production talent to be part of the journey.”
The organizations said IMG will help the SPL and SAFF implement advanced remote-production technologies so that producers can oversee matches taking place in several cities on the same day and ensure the highest production standards are maintained regardless of location.
IMG produces content for some of the world’s biggest football leagues and other sporting events, including the English Premier League, Major League Soccer for Apple TV, CBS coverage of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, Ultimate Fighting Championship, and golf events including The Open, Ryder Cup and the DP World Tour.