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Saints WR Emmanuel Sanders put on COVID-19 list, out vs. Panthers

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Oct. 23 (UPI) — The New Orleans Saints will be without top wide receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders for their game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

The team announced Friday that Sanders, the Saints’ second-leading receiver this season, is out for Sunday’s matchup after landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Thomas, who was already dealing with an ankle sprain, was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Saints head coach Sean Payton told reporters Friday that Sanders — who practiced Wednesday and Thursday — tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, leading to his placement on the COVID-19 list. The team then tested about 20 people who might have been in contact with Sanders, but all of them tested negative.

However, Payton said backup cornerback Ken Crawley will be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list as a precaution because of his close contact with Sanders.

“We found out [Thursday]. He wasn’t feeling well,” Payton said. “Right away, [director of sports medicine] Beau [Lowery] sent him to our doctors for one of our tests. That came back positive. After that happened, we traced those players he was around, coaches — we actually tested about 20 more people that might have been near him, and those all came back negative.

“Ken Crawley, for instance, came back with a time frame that puts him out, so he’ll show up as COVID but without a positive test. It’s more of a precaution.”

Sanders becomes the second Saints player to test positive for the coronavirus this season. Running back Dwayne Washington spent time on the team’s COVID-19 list in training camp and early in the season.

Sanders caught a career-best 12 passes for 122 yards in the Saints’ Week 5 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. New Orleans had a bye in Week 6.

Thomas will now miss his fifth straight game. He suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1 and was benched for disciplinary reasons in Week 5.

This week in the National Football League

Philadelphia Eagles’ Boston Scott (L) makes the 18-yard, game-winning touchdown catch at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Thursday, to defeat the New York Giants 22-21. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo



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Toronto Raptors to play home games in Tampa to begin 2020-21 season

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Nov. 20 (UPI) — The Toronto Raptors will begin the NBA season next month in Tampa, Fla., because of travel restrictions implemented by the Canadian government stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement Friday.

Toronto had been eyeing other sites to hold home games for multiple weeks, including Sunrise, Fla., the home of the NHL’s Florida Panthers. But with the start of the upcoming NBA season quickly approaching, the Raptors were forced to make a decision.

The Raptors — the NBA’s only Canadian team — will now play their home games at Amalie Arena, which is home to the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

The NBA will release the first half of its 2020-21 schedule around Dec. 1. The second half of the schedule is expected to be revealed in January or February, and there is a chance the Raptors could return to Toronto at that point if coronavirus-related restrictions are loosened.

“We’ll be away from our home and our fans for now,” Ujiri wrote in his statement. “They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m not sure that’s possible for us — we love Toronto and Canada, and we know we have the best fans in the NBA. For now, I’ll ask you to cheer for us from afar, and we’ll look forward to the day we are all together again.”

Other U.S. cities that showed interest in serving as the Raptors’ temporary home for this season were Nashville, Tenn., Newark, N.J. and Kansas City, Mo.



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Goran Dragic, Meyers Leonard agree to return to Miami Heat

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Nov. 20 (UPI) — All-Star guard Goran Dragic and veteran big man Meyers Leonard have agreed to re-sign with the Miami Heat for the 2020-21 season.

League sources told ESPN and The Athletic on Friday that Dragic’s deal is worth $37.4 million over two years. The second year of the contract is a team option.

Later Friday, Dragic confirmed the agreement with a post on social media.

“I’m glad that I can announce that I’m staying with my #HeatNationFamily,” Dragic wrote on Twitter. “Let’s finish the job we started!”

Meanwhile, Leonard’s deal also is for two years and worth about $20 million, according to ESPN and the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The second year of his agreement is a team option.

The 34-year-old Dragic will be entering his seventh season with the Heat. He averaged 16.2 points per game while coming off the bench in last year’s regular season. He cracked the starting lineup in the playoffs, but he tore his plantar fascia in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers to dampen Miami’s title hopes.

Leonard, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, averaged 6.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game for the Heat this past season.



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Sacramento Kings’ De’Aaron Fox signing 5-year, $163M max extension

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Nov. 20 (UPI) — Star point guard De’Aaron Fox has agreed to a five-year maximum extension with the Sacramento Kings.

League sources told ESPN and The Athletic on Friday that Fox’s multiyear extension is worth at least $163 million. According to the outlets, the deal contains escalators that would allow him to reach the $195.6 million super max if he makes an All-NBA team and the league’s salary cap climbs above $112 million.

The 22-year-old Fox will receive a total of $170 million in the deal for being named to the All-NBA Third Team, $183 million for a second-team selection and $196 million for a first-team selection.

Fox, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft out of Kentucky, averaged a career-best 21.1 points to go with 6.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game this past season.

Fox is entering his fourth season with the Kings, who are searching for their first playoff berth since 2006. Sacramento posted a 31-41 record in the pandemic-shortened season last year.

Fox’s maximum extension is the first of the 2020 off-season.



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