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Silver, Macron meet to discuss goals with NBA back in Paris

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/chicago-bulls-nba-sports-france-government-africa-efc212a60bce5820d7673a54fd4bea5b

PARIS (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had a meeting this week in Paris and was asked by a gracious host how he takes his coffee.

“Un sucre?” French President Emmanuel Macron asked.

Over that coffee, the leader of the NBA and the leader of France struck a deal to work together with hopes of continuing to grow the game of basketball internationally — a marriage of perfect timing, given how French star Victor Wembanyama is a few months from coming to the NBA and the Paris Olympics are about 18 months away.

The NBA announced some details Thursday, including a collaboration between the league and the LNB, which is France’s top pro league; events that France and the NBA will work on together as part of the buildup toward Paris 2024; expanded youth programs; and additional work toward growing the game in Africa, with both the league and France committing to further investments there including facilities capable of playing host to Basketball Africa League games.

“His belief, I think, is very similar certainly to the NBA’s about the power of sport to bring people together and what a constructive force it can be and even as a global engine to create commonality and empathy among people,” Silver said.

Macron, Silver said, happened to have his schedule align with a BAL game during a visit to Rwanda in the league’s inaugural playoffs. Macron watched the game with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

“He’s very familiar with all our global plans, in Africa particularly,” Silver said.

Macron had other pressing matters on his schedule this week. At least 1.1 million people protested on the streets of Paris and other French cities Thursday amid nationwide strikes against plans to raise the retirement age, but Macron — who met with Silver on Wednesday in Paris, and was at a French-Spanish summit in Barcelona on Thursday — has said he will press ahead with the proposed pension reforms.

Basketball was likely only a brief distraction.

“I am delighted and proud of the NBA’s choice to make France and Paris one of its privileged playgrounds in the world,” Macron said. “It reflects the special and long-standing relationship that France has with the NBA. With the excellence of our training, the performance of our national teams and the hosting of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic games, we now have the opportunity to go further and engage in a useful and lasting partnership for the benefit of French basketball, as well as in support of our development policy in Africa.”

The NBA is in the process of planning another game in Paris next year, Silver said; he spoke Thursday just before a game between the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons, with Wembanyama and his family sitting courtside.

Silver and Macron also discussed plans for Paris 2024, including how the current schedule calls for preliminary games in Lille — about 140 miles north of Paris. That decision is not final, and has been the subject of some criticism given the high-profile status basketball has on the Olympic program.

“He assured us everything would be OK,” Silver said.

Other topics covered by Silver on Thursday included:

LABOR DEAL

Even though Silver and National Basketball Players Association executive director Tamika Tremaglio were in Paris this week, talks between the league and the union continued in New York.

“Our colleagues are back in New York, negotiating as we speak,” Silver said. “They’ve been meeting all week, just going issue by issue and trying to work through those issues that separate us. I would say, though, that I think we start from a very strong foundation.”

The NBA and its players have until Feb. 8 if either side wants to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement. That deadline has been pushed back once already from mid-December, and it would not be a surprise if it gets pushed back again.

“There’s a strong sense of partnership between the players and the league,” Silver said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t have disagreements.”

Among the issues that the NBA and the NBPA have been discussing in recent weeks is a return to letting players enter the draft straight out high school without waiting a year — that move is expected to be included in the next CBA — along with what the league considers an “upper spending limit” that would significantly tighten the rules on how much teams can spend each year on their roster.

LEBRON’S RECORD

With LeBron James now perhaps just a couple of weeks away from catching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and becoming the NBA’s career scoring leader, Silver revealed some of the notions the league is considering to pay tribute to the accomplishment.

“There’s no doubt we will stop that game and make sure we record for history, the ball, the basket, the uniform,” Silver said. “We’ll stop and make sure that we’ve done our jobs as the archivists of the NBA. At the same time, there’s that balance that they will be playing against a team that will very much want to win that night and not be distracted. Most likely we will do something in the moment, but then we will plan a larger celebration.”

James is on pace to break the record in early February — and if he does, it’s likely that the bigger celebration Silver spoke of would come at the NBA’s All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City later that month.

RETURN TO NORMALCY

The last time the NBA played in Paris before Thursday was January 2020 — just under two months before the league shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I actually remember when we were here then, that January in 2020, we started to see people wearing masks. People knew something was coming,” Silver said. “No one was predicting at that time that the world was going to shut down and we’d go on to play in a bubble, etc. Our hope is, of course, that we’ve bookended that pandemic, and the worst is behind us. We hope it is.”

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Source: https://apnews.com/article/chicago-bulls-nba-sports-france-government-africa-efc212a60bce5820d7673a54fd4bea5b

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Report: NWSL to expand in Boston, Utah and California

The National Women’s Soccer League is close to expanding by three teams, which will be in Boston, Utah and the San Francisco area, according to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The women’s pro league previously indicated it would add at least two teams by 2024. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the franchises in northern California and Utah are set to start play next year, with Boston to join at a later date.

The NWSL did not confirm the report in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press, saying: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

The NWSL has 12 teams, after Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Boston and Bay Area groups will pay about $50 million in franchise fees. The Utah team will pay a reduced fee because of a previous agreement struck when the Utah Royals folded in the 2020 season.

Before the NWSL draft earlier this month, league commissioner Jessica Berman said it would be “somewhere between days and months, more like weeks, when we’ll be in a position to share information” about an expansion.

“What I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” she added.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.

She posted on Instagram that Chicago would always be her home, but “my family’s home is on the west coast.

“To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”

The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday, and the Aces can’t comment until then.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, adds to an already loaded lineup that includes reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, who also won the league’s top award in 2020. Wilson also was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chelsea Gray was MVP of the WNBA Finals and Kelsey Plum MVP of the All-Star Game. Wilson, Plum and Jackie Young were All-Star starters.

Parker and Gray were teammates on Los Angeles’ 2016 title team.

The Aces traded one of their key pieces, two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, to the Sparks on Jan. 21, creating speculation Las Vegas was creating salary cap room to sign a big-name player.

Parker, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2016 Finals MVP, certainly fits that bill. Even at 36 last season, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Sky.

“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Chicago coach and general manager James Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”

Losing her is a big blow to the Sky, who made the semifinals in last season’s playoffs before losing in five games to the Connecticut Sun. Kahleah Copper is the only starter under contract for next season, so the Sky could head into a rebuild.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball,” Parker posted.

Parker joins the Aces at a time the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it wanted that organization investigated regarding allegations that Hamby made after being traded. She posted on Instagram she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child.

The Aces still have not commented on Hamby’s allegations.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak.

Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off No. 18 College of Charleston 85-81 on Saturday — ending the Cougars’ 20-game win streak.

“That’s a really big for our program,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “To beat a nationally ranked team on their home court when they’ve got it rolling like they do speaks volumes about our kids.”

Claxton saw a team effort to take down the hottest team in the country.

“It wasn’t just Aaron,” Claxton said. “He had a great first half, but we had other guys step up and make baskets or get rebounds when we really needed them.”

The loss ended Charleston’s spotless run that began after losing to then-top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 11.

Hofstra, the CAA’s leader in field-goal shooting, used that to move past Charleston in the second half as it made 18 of 32 attempts. The Pride led 76-69 with 6:10 to play before the Cougars cut it to two points on Ryan Larson’s foul shots with 2:02 to play.

But Charleston managed just two free throws after that and missed all four 3-pointers they tried.

This is the second straight season the Pride have beaten a Top 25 team. A year ago, Hofstra defeated then No. 24 Arkansas 89-81. The Pride’s only other victory against a Top 25 team came against Southern Illinois in 1976.

Hofstra (15-8, 8-2 Colonial Athletic Association) beat the Cougars (21-2, 9-1) at their own game — 3-point shooting. The Pride were 11 of 22 from 3-point range and overall shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half.

Estrada, who had 23 points in the opening half, shredded the Cougars defense at will. Estrada was 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

“Estrada is a great player, hit a bunch of tough shots, especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Hofstra is a very, very talented team. It’s not just Estrada. They were better than us tonight.”

Then Estrada took over. The CAA’s leading scorer at 21.1 points a game scored 16 of the next 24 points for the Pride, including four 3-pointers.

Ante Brzovic’s dunk at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 46-44 advantage at halftime.

Tyler Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds for Hofstra.

Brzovic finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride are on a roll in 2023. winning seven of their past eight games, including three in a row.

College of Charleston: The Cougars chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament at-large bid took a major blow with the loss to the Pride. Despite having the nation’s longest win streak for three months, Charleston will most likely have to win the CAA Tournament in March to advance to the NCAAs.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Cougars’ 20-game win streak wasn’t the only streak to end on Saturday. College of Charleston played 14 of its first 23 games at TD Arena to start the season and were a perfect 13-0 at home before facing the Pride. Charleston’s 13-game home win streak included three wins in the Charleston Classic. The Cougars became the first mid-major program to win the ESPN event, beating Virginia Tech 77-75 in the championship game. Charleston will finish the season playing four of their final eight games on the road.

POLL POSITION

Charleston’s first loss in nearly three months might drop the Cougars from the national rankings. They have been part of the last four rankings, entering at No. 23 before reaching No. 18 this past week.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to play Towson on Thursday night.

College of Charleston starts a two-game road trip at Drexel on Thursday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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