CHRIS FINCH AP

The Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday finalized the hiring of Toronto assistant Chris Finch as their new head coach, hours after firing Ryan Saunders with the team carrying the NBA’s worst record.

President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas made the change on the bench to the 51-year-old Finch, who was in his first season with the Raptors. They worked together in Houston, where Finch was an assistant (2011-16) and Rosas was a basketball operations executive.

“He is one of the most creative basketball minds in the NBA, has success maximizing players, and I am excited to see him bring our team to the next level and beyond,” Rosas said in a statement distributed by the Timberwolves.

Finch has 24 years of coaching experience, roughly half of that in Europe. The two-time NCAA Division III All-American at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania played for the Sheffield Sharks in the British Basketball League and later coached the same team from 1997-2003. Finch also coached Britain’s national team in the 2012 Olympics.

• Julius “Dr. J” Erving is the latest NBA legend to reveal that he’s gotten vaccinated against the coronavirus, doing so Monday. Much like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Gregg Popovich and Bill Russell before him, Erving made the announcement in the form of a video distributed through the league.

“We were never afraid to take the big shot,” Erving said in the video.

Erving turned 71 on Monday, meaning he is well within the current age guidelines for vaccine eligibility as established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The video he appears in also includes short clips of Jerry West, Dave Bing and Wayne Embry receiving their vaccinations.

The league has released these videos in an effort to help encourage the public to receive the vaccine when they are eligible and it is available in their community.

• Coby White scored 24 points, and the Chicago Bulls used a big third quarter to pull away for a 120-100 win over the short-handed Houston Rockets on Monday night.

Zach LaVine scored 14 of Chicago’s 46 third-quarter points, finishing with 21, as the Bulls outscored the Rockets by 20 points in the quarter to break open a tight game. Chicago had runs of 15-4 and 12-0 in the period. During that second burst, Houston missed four shots, two of which were air balls, and had a turnover.

David Nwaba scored 22 points off the bench to lead Houston, which has lost eight straight.

AUTO RACING

NASCAR:  Chip Ganassi was fined $30,000 and suspended one race for bringing a guest into the NASCAR pit area at Daytona International Speedway.

NASCAR said the team owner violated its COVID-19 guidelines by bringing a nonessential individual into the restricted competition area.

Ganassi cannot return to competition areas Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. NASCAR expanded its bubble beginning with the Daytona 500 to permit team owners into the garage; they were not considered essential personnel last season and had to watch races from a suite on the other side of the track.

The at-track “bubble” does not permit drivers to bring their significant others or children into the infield. Families were even prohibited from accessing at Daytona the infield motorhomes they consider their home at the track.

In other penalties Monday:

• Adam Stevens, the crew chief for winning driver Christopher Bell, was fined $10,000 for one loose lug nut on the No. 20 Toyota after Sunday’s race.

• Jeremy Bullins was also suspended $10,000 for one loose lug nut on Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford.

TENNIS

RANKINGS: Naomi Osaka’s Australian Open championship moved her up one spot to No. 2 in the WTA rankings, while men’s finalist Daniil Medvedev rose to a career-best No. 3 behind winner Novak Djokovic on the ATP list.

Jennifer Brady, the 25-year-old American who was the runner-up to Osaka, jumped 11 spots to No. 13, her first time inside the Top 20.

Aslan Karatsev’s historic run from qualifying to the final four before losing to nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic allowed him to vault 72 places from 114th to 42nd. He is the first man in the professional era to reach the semifinals in his debut in the main draw of a major tournament.

Despite winning the past two Grand Slam tournaments she entered, Osaka still trails No. 1 Ash Barty — who lost in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park — because of the way the tennis tours are calculating what they’re calling “frozen” rankings following last season’s hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Essentially, in order for players’ rankings not to be hurt if they skipped events as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, the WTA gives credit for someone’s best 16 tournaments since March 2019.

SOCCER

PREMIER LEAGUE: Plans to ease England’s lockdown restrictions will see up to 10,000 supporters being allowed back into Premier League stadiums for the final day of the season in May ahead of Wembley hosting European Championship games.

Some sports in England could see fans return even earlier in April, the government said on Monday, as part of pilots involving coronavirus testing to assess how events can take place without any social distancing from later in the year.

English football authorities hope two showpiece games at Wembley — the League Cup final on April 25 and the FA Cup final on May 15 — could be test events for the return of spectators.

ENGLISH LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP: American forward Jordan Morris tore his left ACL while on loan for Swansea in the English League Championship, three years after rupturing his right ACL during a match for Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders.

Morris tore his left ACL on Saturday during Swansea’s 4-1 loss at Huddersfield.

Swansea said he will miss the rest of the English season.

MLS: Sola Winley was hired by Major League Soccer as executive vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. The league said Monday that he was hired Feb. 16 and will report to Commissioner Don Garber.

The 50-year-old Winley is to lead efforts to increase representation, advancement and retention of underrepresented groups among league and team front offices and team coaching staffs. Winley worked for the NFL in international media marketing and sales from 1995-2002, partly overlapping Garber’s time at the NFL. Winley was executive vice president of corporate strategy and planning at A+E Networks from 2013-18.

OLYMPICS

BOBSLED: Kaillie Humphries, the reigning world champion and presumed Olympic favorite in both women’s bobsled and monobob, has applied for an expedited process of obtaining U.S. citizenship so she can represent the country in the 2022 Beijing Games.

Humphries is a Canadian citizen and was a bobsled icon for her native country, winning Olympic gold medals in 2010 and 2014 and a bronze in 2018. She holds a green card and has been racing for USA Bobsled since the fall of 2019 – when she was released by Bobsled Canada in resolution to a dispute where she said was verbally and mentally abused by a coach to the point where she no longer felt safe.

Expedite requests are not uncommon and are considered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on a case-by-case basis. Humphries has been married to an American, former bobsledder Travis Armbruster, since 2019 and the couple lives in San Diego. The formal process started several weeks ago and became more official in recent days once Humphries’ application fees were accepted and she was issued a receipt number. How long the process will take is anyone’s guess.

If she obtains citizenship, Humphries would almost certainly be considered one of the top U.S. medal contenders – from any sport – at the Beijing Olympics. She teamed with Lolo Jones to win the world title earlier this month.

“I am confident that it can get done. I believe that it can and I believe that it will,” Humphries said. “But the reality is it might not, and that will make me heartbroken and extremely sad. I understand that the real world is very different than the sports dream that I get to live every day being an athlete, and there’s no guarantees in life, in sport, in anything.”


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