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LeBron James lands Kevin Durant for NBA All-Stars and Serena Williams back

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While there was plenty of fanfare on the idea of the NBA televising the NBA’s first ever All-Star draft, they had to wait until after a conference call on Thursday to find out who would land on Team LeBron James and Team Stephen Curry.

LeBron James got Kevin Durant and reunited with Kyrie Irving in the NBA’s first All-Star draft.

Stephen Curry picked James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the NBA’s top two scorers, and grabbed his other two Golden State teammates in the selections Thursday.

TEAM LEBRON

LeBron James
• Kevin Durant
Anthony Davis
• Kyrie Irving
DeMarcus Cousins
Russell Westbrook
• Kristaps Porzingis
• LaMarcus Aldridge
• John Wall
• Bradley Beal
• Kevin Love
• Victor Oladipo

TEAM STEPHEN

Steph Curry
Giannis Antetokounmpo
James Harden
DeMar DeRozan
Joel Embiid
• Klay Thompson
Draymond Green
• Karl-Anthony Towns
• Jimmy Butler
• Damian Lillard
• Al Horford
• Kyle Lowry

The draft was not televised, and neither James nor Curry would reveal who they chose first when they were interviewed on TNT when the rosters were unveiled.

James was among those who said fans should have watched the proceedings and his decision to draft Irving could have made for a must-see moment. The point guard asked out of Cleveland last summer, and the Cavaliers traded him to conference rival Boston.

“Kyrie was available on the draft board; he’s one of the best point guards we have in our league,” James said. “It was an easy choice for me.”

James and Curry will be the captains Feb. 18 in Los Angeles for the first NBA All-Star Game that doesn’t use the Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format.

James had the No. 1 pick as a result of earning the most votes in fan balloting, while Curry had the first pick in the reserve round after the starters were selected. He passed on Russell Westbrook, the NBA MVP who instead ended up on Team LeBron.

The league is hoping that trying something new will bring back some old-school intensity that has been absent from the last two games, when the West nearly scored 200 points.

James also took the New Orleans duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. His other reserves are Cleveland teammate Kevin Love, Washington guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, LaMarcus Aldridge of San Antonio, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Kristaps Porzingis of New York.

After taking starters Joel Embiid of Philadelphia and DeMar DeRozan of Toronto, Curry rounded out his roster with Warriors teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Portland’s Damian Lillard, and Boston’s Al Horford.

The league was widely criticized for not televising the draft, a decision that was made to protect players from any embarrassment over being chosen last.

“The fans should have been a part of this for sure and everybody who loves the game,” James said, “but it’s the first year, and I think it’s going to be pretty cool going into the future.”

Team LeBron has all five players in the game who have won All-Star Game MVP awards: James (2006, 2008), Westbrook (2015, 2016), Davis (2017), Durant (2012) and Irving (2014).

serena williams back to indian wells tennis

Serena Williams is returning to tournament play for the first time since giving birth in September.

Williams was among the entries released Wednesday for the BNP Paribas Open, which runs March 5-18 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

It will be the two-time champion’s first tournament in 14 months, since winning the 2017 Australian Open. She lost an exhibition to Jelena Ostapenko in the United Arab Emirates on Dec. 30.

Williams reached the Australian Open semifinals in 2015 and the finals in 2016 after returning to the California event she had boycotted for years because of racial comments from the stands.

Top-ranked Simona Halep, defending champion Elena Vesnina, and former winners Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki are set to play. Also entered is Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova, and Americans Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe.

On the men’s side, defending champion Roger Federer will go for his sixth tournament title. Novak Djokovic also has won five times and is entered along with Rafael Nadal, Grigor Dimitrov, Juan Martin del Potro and Stan Wawrinka.

marin cilic gets to australian open final 2018

Marin Cilic appeared hesitant as he stepped to the baseline to begin his Australian Open semifinal match on Thursday. Before hitting the first serve of the match, he bounced the ball more than two dozen times.

Cilic’s fidgeting presaged a poor start. He quickly fell behind after he finally put the ball in play; his opponent, Kyle Edmund, won three of the first four points to earn two immediate break opportunities.

But after the initial scare, the sixth-seeded Cilic found his groove. He hammered three consecutive service winners and never looked back, beating Edmund, 6-2, 7-6 (4), 6-2, in 2 hours 18 minutes.

Edmund failed to generate any further break point opportunities in the match, while Cilic broke serve four times. Cilic dominated with his first serve, winning 90 percent of those points on his way to becoming the first Croat, man or woman, to reach an Australian Open singles final. It will be the third major final for Cilic, who won his lone Grand Slam title at the United States Open in 2014.

His opponent on Sunday will be second-seeded Roger Federer or unseeded Hyeon Chung. They were scheduled to play Friday evening in the other semifinal. With his run in Melbourne, Cilic will reach a career-high No. 3 in the rankings on Monday.

That will put him behind only Rafael Nadal and Federer. He has maintained a fairly low profile while other top players, like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, have been sidelined by injuries for long periods.

“Having more attention or not, I don’t mind,” Cilic said in an interview after Thursday’s match. “I’m still doing the same things. Still, I have to be focused with my own team to get better every single day, to do the things I need to.”

The 49th-ranked Edmund, like the 58th-ranked Chung, was unseeded in the draw. Though his path opened up somewhat when eighth-seeded Jack Sock lost in the first round, Edmund’s route to the semifinals was more difficult. He took out several more experienced foes, including last year’s United States Open runner-up, Kevin Anderson, in the first round and third-seeded Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals.

Edmund’s run delighted the British tennis community, which has been downtrodden by Murray’s recent injury woes. But he appeared to run out of steam early in the semifinal and struggled occasionally with his movement. Edmund took an off-court medical timeout for several minutes after the first set.

In his on-court interview after the match, Cilic said that he first noticed that Edmund’s movement was limited midway through the third set as his opponent let some shots go past him.

“I was seeing that with his movement he was a little bit restricted, so I just tried to move the ball around,” Cilic said.

Edmund was reluctant to disclose any details of an injury after the match; the BBC reported that it was a hip issue.

Cilic also benefited from an opponent’s maladies when the top-seeded Nadal retired two games into the fifth set of their quarterfinal match on Tuesday. Cilic has had no such struggles.

“I feel really good,” he said in his on-court interview. “Today was just a little bit different intensity than in the match with Rafa. In that match, I lifted my game a lot, and the energy was really good on the court. I think over all I’m feeling really good, thanks to my fitness coach, thanks to my guys. They are making me work hard.”

That good health should give Cilic a much better chance of winning than in his previous major final. Bothered by deep blisters in his foot during last year’s Wimbledon final, Cilic fell meekly to Federer, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, in 1:41, at one point weeping into his towel in frustration.

Cilic spent the two days between that semifinal and the final with “a lot of needles” in his foot trying to drain the blisters, ultimately to no avail.

“Straight after the semis there, I had difficulties with my blisters, and I didn’t know how it was going to be,” he said. “I was hoping it was going to be really good, but it wasn’t, in the end.”

The rest of the year was mixed. Cilic lost in the third round of the United States Open, and was 0-3 in round-robin play at the World Tour Finals in London.

Now, only two Grand Slam events removed from his Wimbledon disappointment, Cilic has a chance to rectify what he called “a lost opportunity.” After winning the United States Open with Goran Ivanisevic as his coach and reaching the Wimbledon final with Jonas Bjorkman, Cilic is working this year with Ivan Cinkus, a fellow Croat with whom he said he shared a seamless connection.

“The communication is really on a good level, and you can see that straightaway on the results,” Cilic said.

That clarity has transferred to his own game, which he is deploying with purpose and pragmatism.

“I’m just understanding myself better, what I’m doing well on the court, and that if I keep doing that, I keep getting better at it,” Cilic said. “Obviously we’re all unique players, having a unique style of play. For me, when I’m playing the great tennis that I can play, it’s on a high level. I can compete with the best guys in the world. For me, that’s the understanding I’m pushing toward.

“The big challenge is to keep that consistently throughout the season, as the best guys do.”

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