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Thursday Sports in Brief

July 1, 2022 GMT

NCAA

In a surprising and seismic shift in college athletics, the Big Ten voted Thursday to add Southern California and UCLA as conference members beginning in 2024.

The expansion to 16 teams will happen after the Pac-12’s current media rights contracts with Fox and ESPN expire and make the Big Ten the first conference to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The announcement, which caught the Pac-12 off-guard, came almost a year after Oklahoma and Texas formally accepted invitations to join the Southeastern Conference in July 2025.

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said USC and UCLA, both members of the Pac-12 and its previous iterations for nearly a century, submitted applications for membership and the league’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously to add the Los Angeles schools.

NBA

The NBA generated more basketball-related income than ever this past season, the total number coming up just short of $9 billion.

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Business is good. The first night of free agency underscored how good.

Nikola Jokic agreed to the biggest contract in NBA history, Bradley Beal agreed to a deal worth a quarter-billion dollars, and the money just kept flowing. Shortly after midnight Friday in the Eastern time zone, three more players — Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Ja Morant — also agreed to huge-money extensions.

Towns and Booker agreed to four-year deals that will commence in 2024 and are worth at least $224 million, their agent, Jessica Holtz of CAA, said. Morant will sign his first rookie extension, one that’ll be worth at least $193 million and could reach the $230 million range, according to Tandem Sports, which represents him.

Those five players — Jokic, Beal, Towns, Booker and Morant — had more than $1.1 billion in money committed to them in their new deals, highlighting the moves made Thursday when the NBA’s annual free-agent negotiating window opened.

Kevin Durant may be taking his quest for more titles elsewhere.

Durant has requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets, according to a person with direct knowledge of the decision that undoubtedly will have teams scrambling to put together offers for the perennial All-Star.

The Nets have been working with Durant to find a trade partner, and he has multiple teams on his preferred list, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because neither the player nor Brooklyn revealed any details publicly.

ESPN first reported Durant’s trade request, citing Phoenix and Miami as two of his preferred destinations. The bombshell came just hours before the NBA’s free-agent period for this summer was set to begin.

— By AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds.

MLB

NEW YORK (AP) — Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. were elected Thursday to start in the July 20 All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium.

The pair were chosen under new rules that give starting spots to the top vote-getter in each league in the first phase of online voting, which began June 8 and ended Thursday. Others advanced to the second phase, which runs from noon EDT on Tuesday and ends at 2 p.m. EDT on July 8. Votes from the first phase do not carry over.

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Starters will be announced July 8, and pitchers and reserves on July 10.

Judge received 3.76 million votes and was elected to start for the fourth time. Acuña led the NL with 3.5 million votes and was elected to start for the third time.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California agency cleared the way for the Oakland Athletics to continue planning a $12 billion waterfront ballpark project.

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission voted 23-2 to reclassify a 56-acre terminal at the Port of Oakland as a mixed-use area where a new ballpark could be built. The vote is the first in a series of legal hurdles the team would have to overcome before it gets permission to break ground for the project.

The commission followed the recommendation of its staff, which found the team demonstrated removing the terminal from port use “would not detract from the region’s capability to handle the projected growth in cargo.”

The A’s are the last professional franchise remaining in Oakland after the NBA’s Golden State Warriors relocated to San Francisco and the NFL’s Raiders to Las Vegas in recent years. The defections weigh heavily on the Bay Area city of roughly 400,000 people, some of whom pleaded with the commission Thursday to work harder to keep the team and the accompanying jobs.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The former agent of Los Angeles Dodgers star Freddie Freeman says the Braves are presenting a “false narrative” about the first baseman’s parting with Atlanta in March.

“I will not stand by as the circumstances surrounding Freddie Freeman’s departure from Atlanta are mischaracterized,” agent Casey Close of Excel Sports Management said in a statement.

Freeman was in tears and at times could barely speak when talking to reporters in Atlanta last week, his first trip back to the city where he had played his entire career before leaving for the West Coast. He was warmly welcomed by Braves fans. He helped the team win the World Series last season and was presented his ring by Braves manager Brian Snitker.

Freeman’s return came at the same time that he apparently fired Excel as his management team. Asked about that, he described the relationship as “fluid.”

NFL

Deshaun Watson’s disciplinary hearing concluded Thursday with the NFL adamant about an indefinite suspension of at least one year and the quarterback’s legal team arguing there’s no basis for that punishment, two people with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press.

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Both sides presented their arguments over three days before former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson in Delaware, according to both people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the hearing isn’t public.

Watson was accused of sexual misconduct by 24 women and settled 20 of the civil lawsuits.

Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players’ Association, will determine whether Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy and whether to impose discipline.

—- By AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi

NHL

DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Red Wings have hired Derek Lalonde to coach their rebuilding team, hoping the two-time Stanley Cup-winning assistant can make all the right moves to make the franchise relevant again.

Lalonde spent the past four years on Jon Cooper’s staff with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a stretch that included championships in 2020 and ’21 and, most recently, a third consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

“He has proven himself as an excellent coach at every level and has spent the last four seasons in the National Hockey League as part of a very successful program in Tampa Bay,” general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement. “We feel he is ready to take the next step in his career as the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings.”

Yzerman was GM of the Lightning when he promoted Cooper to his first NHL head-coaching job in 2013. It’s the first time an active assistant of Cooper’s has jumped to a head job in the NHL.

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