AP NEWS

Friday Sports in Brief

December 28, 2019 GMT

AWARDS

NEW YORK (AP) — Kawhi Leonard is The Associated Press’ male athlete of the year for 2019, comfortably winning a vote by AP member sports editors and AP beat writers.

He becomes the fifth NBA player to win the award, joining Larry Bird (1986), three-time recipient Michael Jordan (1991 through 1993), three-time recipient LeBron James (2013, 2016, 2018) and Stephen Curry (2015). The award has been made annually since 1931, and Simone Biles was announced Thursday as the women’s recipient for 2019.

Leonard was the NBA Finals MVP for the second time, leading Toronto to its first championship — five years after he first smudged his fingerprints on both trophies with the San Antonio Spurs. He wound up leaving the Raptors in the summer for the Clippers, returning to his native Southern California and turning the historically woeful franchise into one of the top teams in the league.

He received more than twice as many points in the balloting as any of the other 18 vote-getters. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was second, followed by Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tennis star Rafael Nadal and reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

OLYMPICS

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia confirmed Friday that it will appeal its four-year Olympic ban for manipulating doping data.

The Russian anti-doping agency, known as RUSADA, sent a formal letter disagreeing with the sanctions imposed earlier this month by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The case is now heading to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Next year’s Olympics in Tokyo will be the third consecutive edition of the games preceded by a legal battle over Russian doping issues.

RUSADA said it “disputes the (WADA) notice in its entirety,” including the evidence of tampering with the data archive. The data was handed over in January and was meant to clear up past cover-ups, but has led to more legal tussles.

NFL

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons are keeping coach Dan Quinn for another season despite a second straight losing record.

The team also announced Friday that general manager Thomas Dimitroff will remain in his current role.

Owner Arthur Blank made the decision two days before the Falcons (6-9) close the season with a game at Tampa Bay.

The Falcons will go through an organizational restructuring, restoring team president and CEO Rich McKay to a bigger role in the football operations.

Quinn and Dimitroff will now report directly to McKay, with Blank retaining oversight of football operations. McKay will report to the owner on all football-related matters.

In addition, the Falcons announced that former Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris will take over from Quinn as defensive coordinator.

NBA

ATLANTA (AP) — Hawks guard Trae Young sprained his right ankle Friday and will miss at least one game.

Young had to be helped off the floor and was ruled out for the rest of the night late in the second quarter of a 112-86 loss to Milwaukee. He said after the game that he will not make the trip to Chicago for Saturday’s game against the Bulls.

Young was dribbling when he went down in the lane. He wasn’t able to put much weight on his right leg while Kevin Huerter and John Collins lifted his arms over their shoulders and escorted him to the sideline.

From there, Vince Carter and a team trainer helped him into the locker room.

Young began the game ranked fourth in the NBA with 29 points per game. He scored 12 points Friday.

NHL

WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Ovechkin has decided to skip NHL All-Star Weekend for the second consecutive year to get rested and ready for the second half of the regular season and playoffs.

The Washington Capitals star was voted in as Metropolitan Division captain by fan vote each of the past two seasons.

“I have to listen to my body,” Ovechkin said Friday night. “I have to get ready for the second half of the year. I have to be healthy and focus on different things. It’s a hard decision, obviously, being the captain and missing the All-Star Game, but have to do best for me and for my team.”

Ovechkin at age 34 opted to prioritize extra rest over a trip to St. Louis in late January. He’ll be suspended one game for skipping All-Star festivities — either Jan. 18 at the New York Islanders or Jan. 27 at the Montreal Canadiens.

SOCCER

MILAN, Italy (AP) — Veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is returning to help his struggling former club AC Milan.

The 38-year-old Swede has agreed a deal until the end of the season with the option to extend the contract for another season, the Italian club announced in a statement Friday.

Ibrahimovic scored 56 goals in 85 appearances for the club and helped it to win the league title in 2011 and the Italian Super Cup the same year.

Although he then moved to Paris Saint-Germain, and subsequently to Manchester United and the LA Galaxy, he always spoke fondly of his time with the Rossoneri and left the door open for a move back.

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Fire hired former U.S. youth coach Raphael Wicky as their coach Friday, the latest move in a makeover by the struggling MLS team.

Wicky is also a former coach of the Swiss club Basel. He is leaving his job as coach of the U.S. under-17 team to join the Fire.

He succeeds Veljko Paunovic, who was fired by Chicago after an eighth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. The Fire missed the playoffs for the second straight season. Paunovic had a record of 41-58-37 record over four years.

YACHT RACING

HOBART, Australia (AP) — Comanche won the 75th edition of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Saturday by claiming line honors for the third time.

The Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant-skippered super maxi made the most of strong overnight winds to cross the River Derwent finish line just after 7:30 a.m. local time.

Comanche earlier broke away from a five-strong pack of super maxis down Tasmania’s east coast having taken a wider route across Bass Strait on Friday.

She stalled at one stage on a windless River Derwent before crossing the line in a time of 1 day, 18 hours, 30 minutes and 24 seconds.

InfoTrack, which was the first yacht out of Sydney Harbour on Thursday, finished second, about 45 minutes behind Comanche. The three other super maxis — nine-time line honrs champion Wild Oats XI, Scallywag and Black Jack — were jostling for third place.

OBITUARY

Receiver Elbert Dubenion, who played key roles in the Buffalo Bills winning consecutive American Football League championships in the mid-1960s, has died. He was 86.

The Bills announced Dubenion died Thursday, 55 years to the day of Buffalo winning its first AFL title with a 20-7 victory over the San Diego Chargers. Dubenion was living in Ohio and had been battling Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

Born in Griffin, Georgia, Dubenion was nicknamed “Golden Wheels” for his speed. He played at Bluffton College in Ohio and was 27 when signed by the Bills before their inaugural season in 1960. He played his entire nine-year career in Buffalo and was enshrined on the team’s Wall of Fame in 1995.

Dubenion led the Bills in yards receiving five times, including 1964, when he had 42 catches for a career-best 1,139 yards and 10 touchdowns in becoming quarterback Jack Kemp’s favorite target. Dubenon’s 27.1 yards per reception that season led the AFL and still stands as a team record, and his touchdown total is tied for second among the Bills for one season.

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