Wednesday’s Sports In Brief

January 6, 2022 GMT

TENNIS

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic’s chance to play for a 10th Australian Open title was thrown into limbo when the country denied him entry and canceled his visa because he failed to meet the requirements for an exemption to COVID-19 vaccination rules.

The top-ranked Djokovic announced on social media Tuesday that he had “exemption permission” and he landed in Australia late Wednesday with a medical exemption from the Victoria state government that was expected to shield him from the strict vaccination regulations in place for this year’s first major tennis tournament.

But national border authorities didn’t accept the exemption, with the Australian Border Force issuing a statement saying Djokovic failed to meet entry requirements.

NFL

TAMPA, Fla. — Antonio Brown says he didn’t quit on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the middle of a game, but rather he was cut after refusing to play through an ankle injury that sidelined him for several weeks this season.

ADVERTISEMENT

The oft-troubled wide receiver, who took off his jersey, shoulder pads and undershirt before walking off the sideline during a game Sunday against the New York Jets, said in a statement released by his attorney that he was pressured to play and coach Bruce Arians fired him when the player told the coach he was not able to re-enter the game because of his ankle.

While not specifying which ankle was hurt, Brown — through a statement released by his attorney — said an MRI performed Monday showed broken bone fragments, a ligament tear and cartilage loss “which are beyond painful. You can see the bone bulging from the outside.”

Arians said the day after the game that Brown did not claim he was injured when he refused to continue playing against the Jets. The coach declined to discuss specifics of the conversation on the sideline and said he had “no clue” why the receiver reacted by storming off the field, tossing some of his gear into the stands and waving to fans at MetLife Stadium.

Brown told a different story in his statement.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans have made the easy move opening the 21-day window for Derrick Henry to practice.

The next decision, particularly the timing, will be more challenging.

Taking the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year off injured reserve by Sunday means he could help beat Houston, clinching the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Waiting means the Titans try to earn the first-round bye without Henry, giving him more time to shake off the rust from missing the past nine weeks with a broken right foot.

The Titans have to balance Henry’s health against the benefits of playing in a game compared to the quality of work available in practices at the end of the NFL regular season.

ADVERTISEMENT

Henry, who turned 28 on Tuesday, broke his right foot Oct. 31 and had surgery Nov. 2 to repair his fifth metatarsal. Henry led the league with 937 yards rushing when he was put on injured reserve, and the NFL’s 2019 and 2020 rushing leader still ranks sixth in the league despite missing eight games.

The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry has been out nine weeks counting the Titans’ bye Dec. 5. Henry is averaging a league-high 117.1 yards a game. He is averaging 4.3 yards per carry with 10 touchdowns rushing.

NBA

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 22 points and sparked Brooklyn to a big rally in the second half of his season debut, Kevin Durant had 39 and the Nets beat the Indiana Pacers 129-121.

Irving is ineligible to play home games because he is not vaccinated as mandated in New York City, and the Nets had decided against allowing him to just play road games for most of the season.

But they changed their mind last month and were glad they did Wednesday, when Irving helped them charge back from a 19-point deficit. The point guard played 32 minutes as Brooklyn snapped a three-game losing streak.

DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki wiped a tear as his No. 41 rose slowly above the court not far from the podium where the franchise icon for the Dallas Mavericks had held it together through a 20-minute speech until it was time to thank the fans.

The concourse of Dirk Nowitzki’s old home arena displayed memorabilia that fans lined up to see, and waited in some cases even longer to buy his jersey. They chanted “MVP! MVP!” just about every time they saw him, live or on the video boards above the court, all night.

The Mavericks were honoring Nowitzki nearly three years after he announced his retirement on the court at the American Airlines Center after the final home game of the 2018-19 season. He played one more game at San Antonio.

The 43-year-old Nowitzki played a record 21 seasons with the same franchise, beating the late Kobe Bryant’s previous mark of 20 with the Los Angeles Lakers. The highest-scoring foreign-born player in NBA history led the Mavericks to their only championship in 2011 and their only other NBA Finals appearance five years before that. The big German changed the game as the best 7-foot shooter from 3-point range.

NHL

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Sidney Crosby and Evan Rodrigues scored 12 seconds apart in the third period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied to beat the St. Louis Blues 5-3 for their ninth straight win.

Bryan Rust scored twice and Brock McGinn also had a goal to help the Penguins get their longest win streak since winning 15 in a row in March 2013. Pittsburgh is 14-2-1 in its last 17 games.

Crosby scored his fifth, Rodrigues his 14th and McGinn his ninth, as Pittsburgh scored three in the third to erase a 3-2 deficit.

Casey DeSmith stopped 13 shots, but was pulled after the Blues’ third goal. Tristan Jarry, who recently came off the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, stopped all 13 shots in relief.