Tom Brady joked about Aaron Rodgers becoming a "shareholder" of the Chicago Bears, while taking a shot at his old rival, the New York Jets.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Brady sarcastically congratulated Green Bay Packers quarterback Rodgers on owning the Bears after the reigning MVP shouted "I still own you" at their fans after completing a fourth-quarter touchdown during Sunday's 24-14 NFL win.

The topic of ownership came up on Wednesday.

"I wanted to say congrats to Aaron Rodgers. Obviously, he's a great QB but I guess he's now a shareholder of the Bears," Brady quipped during his appearance on the Let's Go! podcast.

"I saw a clip of him really enthusiastically telling the crowd how happy he is to own Solider Field."

Podcast host Jim Gray joked that by that measure Brady owned the Jets, given his 29-7 career record against the New York franchise, but the 44-year-old and seven-time Super Bowl champion threw shade rather than be drawn it.

"Oh, no I'll just take the colour green. I don't need the Jets," the former New England Patriots quarterback said. "I'll just own the colour green, I think that's a little bit better."

Brady has thrown for 8,649 yards and 57 touchdowns against the Jets, who have not won the Super Bowl since 1968.

Time flies when you're having fun, as the old cliche goes, but you don't need to have been enjoying yourself to notice how quickly we got to Week 7 of the NFL season.

Fantasy managers who have enjoyed strong starts may already be casting their eyes towards the playoffs and a run at the title.

Meanwhile, those owners who are mired near the bottom of their league might be wondering where it all went wrong and paying a dwindling amount of attention to their line-up.

Either way, there are plenty of players with matchups this week who can help deliver a win for your squad. Stats Perform looks at four offensive players and a defense who are primed to make a significant impact in Week 7.

 

Quarterback: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons @ Miami Dolphins

The Falcons have had the bye week to rest after their win over the New York Jets in London and now get the chance to exploit another vulnerable AFC East defense.

They face a Dolphins team that will be playing only seven days removed from their game in the United Kingdom, and a defense that gave up 319 passing yards in their loss to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.

Ryan has two 300-yard games to his name this year and has thrown for multiple scores in every game after drawing a blank in the season opener.

Atlanta and Miami look like two teams heading in different directions, expect Ryan and the Falcons to take advantage and the 2016 MVP to record a big fantasy day.

Running Back: Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals vs. Houston Texans

Edmonds has been something of a frustrating case so far this season.

He is averaging six yards per carry but has not consistently received the workload to be a viable fantasy option.

That looks likely to change this week when the unbeaten Cardinals face the 1-5 Texans, who are allowing 4.74 yards per rush attempt, the fifth-worst average in the NFL.

With the Cardinals widely expected to get out to a big lead in a hurry, Arizona should be able to take the pressure off Kyler Murray and lean on their backs if the game gets out of hand, meaning Edmonds could be in store for plenty of garbage time yards.

Wide Receiver: Ja'Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens

Chase is a fully fledged fantasy darling having exploded out of the gates as a rookie for 553 yards and five touchdowns.

He might be expected to hit a block in the road against a Ravens defense that only gave up six points to the Los Angeles Chargers last week.

However, Chase is tied for the league lead with eight receiving plays of 25 yards or more and only six teams have allowed more passing plays of 20 yards or more than the Ravens (24).

Keep the faith and look for Joe Burrow and Chase to connect on at least one big one to vindicate his starting spot in fantasy line-ups.

Tight End: Dallas Goedert @ Las Vegas Raiders

With Zach Ertz out of the picture following his trade to the Arizona Cardinals, expect a bump in targets for Goedert, who is averaging 14.4 yards per reception this season.

That increase in his share of the workload could hardly come at a better time for Goedert fantasy owners, as he and the Philadelphia Eagles travel to visit a Raiders team allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends.

Defense: New England Patriots vs. New York Jets

This one isn't too difficult. The Jets have committed nine giveaways this season, tied for sixth-most in the NFL, and four of those came from Zach Wilson interceptions against the Patriots at MetLife Stadium in Week 2.

Wilson and Co. have got themselves in the win column since then, but there is nothing to suggest that a Jets offense still without left tackle Mekhi Becton should succeed in avoiding turnovers in this week's return fixture in Foxborough.

The Seattle Seahawks have claimed Jacob Eason to bolster their quarterback depth with star Russell Wilson sidelined due to a finger injury.

Eason was waived by the Indianapolis Colts earlier this week, despite debuting as relief for starter Carson Wentz against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 2 of the NFL season.

The 23-year-old Eason was a fourth-round pick in 2020, completing two of five attempts for 25 yards in his debut against the Rams, having not played as a rookie last year.

Washington native Eason joins Geno Smith as QBs on Seattle's 53-man roster along with Jake Luton and Danny Etling on their practice squad.

Smith completed 23 of 32 passes for 209 yards and one touchdown in the Seahawks' 23-20 defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Super Bowl champion and eight-time Pro Bowler Wilson landed on injured reserve a fortnight ago, having injured his right middle finger in the loss to the Rams on October 7 before undergoing surgery.

The 32-year-old's 10-year run of starts was the sixth longest by any quarterback in NFL history, and the longest of any active QB.

Wilson will sit out at least two more games before he is eligible to come off IR.

The Seahawks (2-4) host the New Orleans Saints (3-2) on Monday.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said the Ben Simmons drama is muting the fun of opening day for the NBA title contenders.

Simmons will not feature in Wednesday's opener against the New Orleans Pelicans – the three-time All-Star suspended by the 76ers due to "conduct detrimental to the team" following reports he was ejected from practice after Rivers grew frustrated with his lack of engagement.

76ers guard Simmons has demanded a trade amid criticism following last season's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks and was absent from Philadelphia for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

Speculation over Simmons' future is now set to intensify amid reported interest from the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers.

Ahead of the 76ers' clash with the Pelicans, Rivers told reporters: "It's a predicament that we're in and that part is no fun. It really isn't.

"We get to play right now and Ben is not. I want Ben to be playing. That's his job."

Simmons – an elite defender who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

 

The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

"Obviously you don't want any of those things. You get a lot of texts, 'great job' and all this stuff and it's not," Rivers said. "I don't think people understand ... you want all your players to do well.

"You cheer for your players. Even when they're in a tough spot, you want it to go well for them, you do. When you're put in positions like [Tuesday], it's no fun."

Philadelphia – who finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season – have won five of their last six games against New Orleans, though the Pelicans claimed their last home meeting. Of those six games, five were decided by seven or fewer points.

Seth Curry shot 45.0 per cent from beyond the arc for the 76ers last season – his third consecutive campaign shooting at least 45.0 percent from three-point range, all with different teams. He is the fourth qualified player in NBA history with three straight seasons of 45.0-percent shooting from downtown, according to Stats Perform.

Dillian Whyte has been forced to cancel his heavyweight clash with Otto Wallin on October 30 due to a shoulder injury, promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed on Wednesday.

The fight with Sweden's Wallin, set to take place at the O2 Arena in London, was the main event on an impressive card with Whyte set to return to action for the first time since beating Alexander Povetkin in March.

However, a shoulder injury sustained in training has forced the postponement of the fight and it remains unclear whether the clash will be rescheduled.

The winner was in line to face the undefeated Tyson Fury for the WBC heavyweight crown in 2022, though Whyte's next bout may still be against the 'Gyspy King' should the meeting with Wallin be called off completely.

The WBC had ruled that the winner of Fury and Deontay Wilder's trilogy fight would have 30 days to agree on a bout with IBF, WBA and WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk, or face the reigning interim champion - the winner of Whyte versus Wallin.

However, Anthony Joshua has triggered a rematch clause to ensure he fights Usyk again in 2022, opening the door for Whyte or Wallin to step up.

Should Whyte be required to challenge Wallin in a rearranged clash, defeat will once again throw a spanner in the works for the Briton, despite him currently ranking as the WBC's interim challenger.

Whyte has encountered similar problems before while waiting for a world title shot, having been knocked out by Povetkin in 2020 before recovering in the rematch between the pair.

Aryna Sabalenka edged past Ajla Tomljanovic in the Kremlin Cup to reach the quarter-finals in her first match since contracting COVID-19 after the US Open semi-finals. 

Top seed Sabalenka – appearing in Moscow for the first time – had not played since being downed by Leylah Fernandez, having tested positive for coronavirus on the eve of the Indian Wells Open. 

The Belarusian, who sits second in the world rankings, profited from a bye in the first round before battling past Tomljanovic 7-6 (7-2) 4-6 6-1 on Wednesday as she fired 10 aces but made 30 unforced errors. 

Sabalenka will now meet Ekaterina Alexandrova after the Russian cruised past Anhelina Kalinina 6-4 6-1, while Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova comfortably defeated Bernarda Pera 6-2 7-5. 

Number two seed Garbine Muguruza also reached her seventh quarter-final of the season as she defeated Tereza Martincova 6-4 4-6 6-3 in just under three hours in Moscow. 

Meanwhile, Elina Svitolina was shocked in the Tenerife Open as she was dumped out by Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, who succeeded 5-7 6-3 6-2 to claim her first top-10 victory. 

Svitolina was the favourite in Spain and comfortably took the first set on Tuesday. However, inadequate light stopped play and the 19-year-old Osorio responded emphatically the following day to secure a memorable triumph. 

Ann Li coasted past Varvara Gracheva 6-4 6-2 after Anna Karolina Schmiedlova had dispatched Jaqueline Cristian 6-2 7-5 in the opening match of the day. 

Xinyu Wang retired injured against Alize Cornet, who led 4-1 in the decisive set, while Donna Vekic and Irina-Camelia Begu's match was suspended for bad light with the Croatian leading by a set. 

Karen Khachanov revealed he felt the nerves of playing in front of a home crowd as he marked his return to Moscow with a comeback victory in the Kremlin Cup.

Handed a bye for the opening round, third seed Khachanov made home advantage count in his first match as the Russian defeated Australian world number 50 James Duckworth 3-6 6-3 6-1 to reach the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Khachanov – Olympic Games silver medallist, who triumphed in Moscow three years ago – will face another Australian, John Millman after he defeated Illya Marchenko 6-1 5-7 6-4 at the ATP 250 tournament.

"It always feel great to be back in your hometown, in a tournament where everything started for me as a professional tennis player," world number 31 Khachanov said.

"[This is] where I won my first matches, I got my first points. Since then, it's always great to come back home to see a crowd, [get] home support. It's also little bit more nervous, of course. But I always enjoy playing at home."

Khachanov was joined in going through to the last eight by sixth seed Marin Cilic – a two-time Kremlin Cup champion who overcame Tommy Paul 7-5 6-3.

At the European Open in Antwerp, top seed Jannik Sinner downed fellow Italian youngster Lorenzo Musetti 7-5 6-2 in the duo's first meeting as professionals.

"We never practice together, so it was kind of a new match," Sinner said post-match.

"He's an incredible player. He's a very great talent, so I hope we will have a couple of more matches on the pro tour, and obviously I'm very happy about my level today."

Arthur Rinderknech upstaged eighth seed Dusan Lajovic 6-3 4-6 6-2 to set up a quarter-final tie with Sinner, who is in the hunt for a fourth title of the season and a place at next month's ATP Finals in Turin.

Another emerging talent, qualifier Jenson Brooksby, bettered US Open quarter-finalist Botic van de Zandschulp 6-2 6-0, with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina sending third seed Cristian Garin packing 4-6 6-3 6-3.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has been ruled out of their clash with the Denver Broncos.

Mayfield is dealing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder but had previously insisted he would be fine for the visit of the Broncos.

However, his streak of 51 consecutive starts will come to an end as the Browns look to improve to 4-3 on the season.

Instead, Case Keenum will get the start under center.

"We have full confidence in him [Keenum] to lead us and do the things necessary to put us in position to win," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said.

"Baker fought really hard to play, he's a competitor and obviously wants to be out there but just couldn't make it on a short week.

"We know he will continue to do everything in his power to return as quickly as possible."

In addition to Mayfield, the Browns will be without both of their starting running backs.

Nick Chubb will miss his second successive game because of a calf injury, with Kareem Hunt having been placed on injured reserve with a similar issue.

The Browns could again be minus both of their starting offensive tackles, Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills, while wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. sat out Tuesday's practice because of a shoulder issue.

Having dropped successive games to the Los Angeles Chargers and the Arizona Cardinals, the deck could be stacked against Keenum in his bid to help the Browns avoid another damaging defeat.

Anthony Joshua is visiting various trainers across the United States as he looks to potentially alter his coaching set-up ahead of his rematch with Oleksandr Uysk.

Joshua's tactics were scrutinised after he lost his IBF, WBA and WBO belts to the undefeated Uysk, who collected a unanimous decision at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on September 25.

The two-time former unified world heavyweight champion must now triumph in his rematch, likely in March 2022, to reclaim his belts after the second defeat of his professional career.

Trainer Robert McCracken, who was criticised for allowing Joshua to attempt to outbox Usyk, has worked with the 2012 Olympic champion for the entirety of his professional career but the 32-year-old has been pictured working in gyms across the USA as he scouts for a potential new trainer.

Virgil Hunter, Eddy Reynoso and most recently Ronnie Shields - who worked with both Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield – have all been seen with Joshua and the latter trainer confirmed the rumours the Briton was in the market for a new appointment.

"They reached out to me and they asked if I would be interested in taking a look at AJ and that he wanted to come down to Texas and see if things would work out between him and I," Shields told ThaBoxingVoice.

"I said, 'No problem, I would love to see if we had a connection together'.

"He said, 'European boxing is different from boxing in the US'. He realised he had to come to the US to get something different.

"He told me, 'Listen, I know people don't think I'm a dog. I've got to be a dog in this next fight'.

"And that's his words. He told me, 'I just need you to show me how to be the best dog you can teach me to be.'"

American boxer Jermall Charlo trains with Shields and posted several videos on Instagram of Joshua speaking with Tyson's former coach after undertaking a light training session.

Joshua has provided no official confirmation on his coaching staff yet, with assistant trainers Angel Hernandez and Joby Clayton also part of his set-up.

After losing to Andy Ruiz Jr, Joshua added Hernandez to his team but it remains unseen as to whether he will continue with McCracken as his trainer for the Usyk rematch.

 

Led by Jhaniele Fowler’s near-perfect shooting, Jamaica took a 2-0 lead over Trinidad and Tobago, after winning 64-32 in the Margaret Beckford Sunshine Series at the National Indoor Sports Complex on Tuesday.

Fowler, arguably the best shooter in the world, did not start as Sunshine Girls head coach Connie Francis chose to open with Gezelle Allison and Shanice Beckford. However, the pair of attackers were unable to sufficiently spur the Jamaican attack as the first quarter ended 12-8.

They fared slightly better in the second quarter and they extended the four-point lead to 10 to lead 24-14 at halftime.

However, once Fowler was substituted in at the start of the third quarter, the Sunshine Girls got an immediate lift and extended their lead to 22 and led 44-22 at the end of the third. Fowler would eventually score 36 goals from 38 attempts as Jamaica won by 32.

Allison finished with 13 goals from 20 attempts while Shanice Beckford scored 12 from 14.

Afisha Noel led the scoring for the Calypso Girls with 17 goals from 20 attempts with support from her captain Kalifa McCollin, who scored 15 goals from her 16 attempts.

Jamaica will go for the sweep tonight when the teams meet again in the final match of the series.

 

Lewis Hamilton will look to bounce back from frustration in Turkey as he returns to one of his favourite tracks at the United States Grand Prix this week.

The drivers' championship battle between Hamilton and Max Verstappen continues to be closely fought, with just six races left in the 2021 season.

Red Bull driver Verstappen moved back into the lead in Istanbul and comes to Austin with a six-point advantage over Hamilton, who is seeking a record-breaking eighth world title.

Hamilton took an engine penalty in Turkey and limited the damage to his rival, but was frustrated with his own team over a strategy call that he felt may have cost him a podium.

The trip to the USA therefore comes at a good time for the Briton, who has won this race a record six times.

Only in Hungary, Great Britain (both eight) and Canada (seven) has Hamilton won more times and he did not have the chance to add to his tally in 2020 as the event was not held due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hamilton has eight podiums from his nine USA races, and the only time he did not make the top three he still finished fourth in 2013.

He also sealed the third and sixth of his seven world titles in Austin, his 2015 race win and second-place finish in 2019 giving him those successes.

While Verstappen leads the drivers' battle, Mercedes do still top the constructors' standings and will hope a resurgent Valtteri Bottas can help Hamilton to continue the team's strong track record at the venue.

 

LAST TIME OUT

Strategy was key in wet conditions at the Turkish Grand Prix, with Hamilton left frustrated by Mercedes' decision to pit late and help Verstappen, who ended up in second place, reclaim the championship lead.

Having been fastest in qualifying but handed a 10-place grid penalty due to his engine change, Hamilton saw team-mate Bottas start in first place.

It was a lead Bottas only relinquished briefly to Charles Leclerc, though the Finn regained it with a brilliant move on the inside of the Ferrari with 11 laps remaining to claim his first win of the season.

Hamilton's decision to hold off pitting in the wet conditions was what prompted debate between driver and the Mercedes pit wall.

Well in the hunt for a podium place in the 51st lap, Hamilton was finally instructed to come in which meant he was forced to settle for fifth behind Bottas, Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Leclerc.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT IN USA

Hamilton's fine record in the United States means it is he who goes into the race weekend as the narrow favourite to strike the next blow in a thrilling title battle on Sunday.

Verstappen has solid form at the Circuit of the Americas too, though, with past finishes of second, third and fourth.

The Dutchman is optimistic of taking the fight to Mercedes as he targets a first Austin win, as he looks to end a run of three races without a victory in 2021.

That title race will again be the main focus, with both Mercedes and Red Bull hoping their second drivers can get in on the action to help Hamilton and Verstappen respectively.

Bottas claimed his first win of the year last time out and has three podiums from his last four outings, while Perez finally ended a miserable eight-race run without a top-three finish in Turkey.

Lando Norris is one point away from matching his total from the 2019 and 2020 seasons combined and will hope McLaren can be more competitive this week. 

They are locked in a close battle with Ferrari for third place in the constructors' championship, with the British team just 7.5 points ahead of their Italian rivals.

 

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Qualifying key - The past 10 winners of the United States Grand Prix came from the first row of the grid - six from pole position and four from second place.

Fond memories – The last time F1 raced in the United States (2019), Hamilton reached his 150th career podium. He has since moved on to 176 top-three finishes, an F1 record total.

Bottas barrier – The Finn is looking to get a pole position and race win double in consecutive grands prix, a feat he has never achieved before. He did get pole and win the race at the 2019 edition of this event. 

Mercedes mark – The team have six poles in their last six races in the United States and another here would see them equal Ferrari on seven poles in the country. Only Lotus (10) have recorded more than Ferrari.

Austin aces – Mercedes have had a podium finisher in each of the last six USA races, winning five of those events and finishing with a one-two in four of them, including the last one in 2019.
 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 262.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 256.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 177
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) 145
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 135

Constructors

1. Mercedes 433.5
2. Red Bull 397.5
3. McLaren 240
4. Ferrari 232.5
5. Alpine 104

Australian Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke insists Novak Djokovic would need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter the country and defend his Australian Open title.

The Serbian is the top-ranked player in the world and could move clear of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for grand slam titles if he can claim his 21st at Melbourne Park.

However, Hawke's comments regarding vaccination requirements cast doubts over Djokovic's participation, with the 34-year-old previously declining to reveal his vaccination status.

"You'll need to be double vaccinated to visit Australia," Hawke said to Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio. "That's a universal application, not just to tennis players. I mean that every visitor to Australia will need to be double vaccinated.

"I don't have a message to Novak. I have a message to everybody that wishes to visit Australia. He'll need to be double vaccinated."

With recent reports suggesting that over a third of professional players have yet to be fully vaccinated, a significant number could be denied the chance to play in the opening grand slam of 2022.

The men's ATP and women's WTA tours have attempted to encourage players with reservations to get the vaccine, and Tennis Australia explained that it was working with government authorities regarding conditions for the tournament.

"Our understanding is that the details around international visitors entering the country are yet to be decided and we hope to have more information soon," Tennis Australia said in a statement.

Australia's health minister Greg Hunt defended the ruling, explaining that the decision had been taken with the safety of the country's citizens in mind.

"The [rules] apply to everyone without fear or favour," Hunt said. "It doesn't matter whether you are number one in the world or you are anything else."

Djokovic, who withdrew from the Indian Wells Masters this month, has won nine of his majors at the Australian Open.

Andy Murray says he will never forget his memorable clash with Frances Tiafoe at the European Open in Antwerp.

The former world number one saved two match points in the first round match and eventually triumphed 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (10-8) in three hours and 45 minutes.

Murray's victory in an epic clash was the longest three-set match of the 2021 ATP season.

The battle had so many twists and turns that Murray, a veteran of 897 matches on tour, ended up having a long debrief with Tiafoe in the locker room afterwards.

Murray revealed it was the first conversation of that nature he had been involved in for more than a decade.

Indeed, the Briton only remembered going back over a match with one of his opponents twice before.

"I spent probably 30 minutes in the locker room afterwards just chatting to Frances," Murray said. "I had a long chat with Frances afterwards so I'll probably remember that and then the embrace at the end. 

"I guess so much went into it that I don't remember loads of points in the match, but obviously the end was special. 

"I've never played a match like that on the tour really. In the locker room we had a much more in-depth chat about tennis - that was kind of rare I would say. 

"I think maybe twice I've had that conversation in the locker room.

"Once was with [Jurgen] Melzer at the US Open after I beat him in five sets [in 2008] and we chatted a bit about the match.

"And then once after playing Jarkko Nieminen [at Wimbledon in 2010] because we were waiting to speak to the Queen after we played." 

Murray faces a tough test in the last 16 as he is due to do battle with second seed Diego Schwartzman.

He hit 21 aces against Tiafoe and totalled 46 winners to just 21 unforced errors, but Tiafoe was also in form with 51 winners to 25 unforced errors.

"The margins were so fine," added Murray. "I served particularly well at the end, which helped, and when he missed his first serve on that match point I was able to capitalise on that.

"There's obviously so much that goes into a match like that."

Schwartzman will go into the next match fresher than Murray as the Argentine received a first-round bye due to his seeding.

LeBron James says he is "not worried at all" about Russell Westbrook after he suffered first-game jitters in a losing Los Angeles Lakers debut on the opening night of the NBA season.

Westbrook cut a disconsolate figure following a tough bow as Stephen Curry inspired the Golden State Warriors to a 121-114 victory at Staples Center on Tuesday.

Nine-time NBA All-Star Westbrook finished with only eight points, five rebounds, four assists and four turnovers in a debut that did not go to plan.

James, who got his season under way with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, has no concerns about Westbrook following such a disappointing bow for the 2017 MVP.

"I think it was just first-game jitters. I don't put too much into it," James said of Westbrook's performance. 

"There was a lot going through his mind, being a kid from LA and watching the Lakers growing up, then however many years down the road now you're putting on a Laker uniform, you're stepping into Staples Center.

"I can only imagine how many friends and family have contacted him in the last 48 hours wondering if they can come and see his first game as a Laker. Those demands will quieten down as the season goes on, so I'm not worried about Russ at all. He just needs to worry about himself and not worry about the outcome."

James revealed he told Westbrook not to dwell on his below-par display.

He said: "I told Russ just don't be so hard on yourself, it's one game. That's the one thing I tried to get through to him. Go home and see the three babies that he has.

"They might be asleep, but it will put a smile on his face. He can go home and see a beautiful wife and family and realise it's not that bad."

Curry put up a triple-double of 21 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in a great start to the campaign for the Warriors.

Stephen Curry may have produced his eighth career triple-double and first since 2016 but he says he "played like trash" in Tuesday's NBA season-opening 121-114 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Curry's Golden State Warriors made a statement as they stunned the Lakers, with the star point guard contributing 21 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals.

The two-time NBA MVP only managed five-from-21 from the field, shooting at 23.8 per cent, with nine of his points coming from the stripe.

"I played like trash, shot the ball terribly," Curry told ESPN after the game.

The Warriors turned in a 38-29 final quarter to claim the win, scoring 46 points in the paint for the game, compared to the Lakers' 34.

Golden State had a good spread of contributors, while the Lakers relied on LeBron James (34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists) and Anthony Davis (33 points, 11 rebounds and two assists), as Russell Westbrook battled on debut, finishing with eight points, five rebounds and four assists.

Curry added: "If we can win a game like that, where we create some good shots and stick with it defensively, against a pretty good team, that is a pretty good omen.

"We've got to learn from our mistakes, quit turning the ball over, make more shots, we'll be good.

"This is a good feeling. We had a lot of excitement coming into the season. New cast of characters mixed with our core. We weathered the storm tonight."

New Warriors additions Nemanja Bjelica, Andre Igoudala, Otto Porter Jr and Moses Moody all got minutes and contributed. Bjelica added 15 points and 11 rebounds from 26 minutes, while veteran forward Igoudala scored 12 points from 23 minutes.

Jordan Poole also stepped into the starting line-up to score 20 points, including 16 in the second half, and Curry was bullish that the team would continue to gel as they get into the season.

"That's what early season is all about," Curry said. "Obviously there was a lot of hype about this game. We want to be in a playoff-like atmosphere like this.

"We have a lot to learn and grow. Our chemistry is solid, in terms of what we're trying to do. When you have to go execute it, it's a different animal. I like learning lessons in wins."

James Harden said he is "not planning on leaving" the Brooklyn Nets, despite the contract deadline passing without a new deal.

Harden and the championship-chasing Nets did not reach an agreement over a contract extension prior to Monday's deadline in the NBA.

The former MVP – entering the third season of a four-year, $171.1million deal signed with the Houston Rockets before his blockbuster trade to the Nets last season – is now set to enter unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

But the 32-year-old superstar dismissed the possibility of leaving Brooklyn after the Nets lost 127-104 to reigning NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks in Tuesday's season opener.

"The contract, the money is going to be there. I'm not planning on leaving this organisation and the situation that we have," Harden said, having scored 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in Milwaukee.

"So my focus, honestly, is just focus on the season and then winning the championship. The contract and all that stuff will work itself out, but my focus is going to be locked on this season."

Harden added: "Last year was a whirlwind for me individually, as far as my health and playing. So this year I feel like I need to come back and show I am one of those ones. So I've got a lot to prove myself and that's all I'm worried about and focused on.

"I love it here. Myself and [Nets owner Joe Tsai, Clara Wu-Tsai, general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash].

"From top to bottom the communication has been unbelievable, it's been amazing. I feel at home. It's nothing to worry about. For me individually I just want to focus on this year and that's it."

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors spoiled the party as they stunned LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers 121-114 on the opening night of the 2021-22 NBA season, while defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks started with a bang.

A star-studded crowd was in attendance to watch Curry and James go head-to-head in the season opener at Staples Center, with likes of Justin Bieber, Kevin Hart and Usher watching courtside.

Looking to bounce back from last season's first-round playoff exit as they were eventually dethroned by the Bucks, James and the Lakers were outlasted in Los Angeles, where Russell Westbrook endured a rough debut.

Despite double-doubles from James (34 points and 11 rebounds) and Anthony Davis (33 points and 11 rebounds), the Lakers were no match for the Warriors and Curry – who put up a triple-double of 21 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

It was Curry's eighth career triple-double, while Jordan Poole added 20 points as the visiting Warriors and their bench outscored the Lakers' role players 55-29.

 

Giannis fuels Bucks

The Bucks unveiled their championship banner, rings and crushed Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets 127-104 behind Giannis Antetokounmpo's 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in the league's season-opening matchup. Khris Middleton contributed 20 points and nine rebounds on a memorable night in Milwaukee, where the Bucks won the Eastern Conference semi-final rematch.

While the Nets were blown away on the road, Kevin Durant produced again with 32 points and 11 rebounds. The former MVP has scored at least 25 points in 11 consecutive games against the Bucks, equalling the feat achieved by James (from 2011 to 2013).

Nets recruit Patty Mills (21 points on seven-for-seven shooting from beyond the arc) tied the NBA record for most made threes on debut for a new team, while James Harden (20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists) flirted with a triple-double.

 

Westbrook's woes, Harris behind Brooklyn's struggles?

All eyes were on Westbrook following his return to California and move to the Lakers. But the former MVP failed to impress, however. In 35 minutes, Westbrook was only four-for-13 shooting for eight points, while he had five rebounds and four assists to go with four turnovers.

The Nets went 24-4 (85.7) last season when Joe Harris scored at least 15 points – best in the NBA (minimum 25 games). Harris had the fourth-most games in the NBA with a positive plus/minus, behind only Rudy Gobert, MVP Nikola Jokic and Royce O'Neale. So based on that pre-game fact, it is no surprise the Nets lost after Harris was far from his best in Milwaukee. The 2019 NBA Three-Point Contest champion finished with just nine points on three-for-nine shooting in 31 minutes.

Cody Bellinger saved the Los Angeles Dodgers with their season on life support as he crushed a game-tying three-run homer in a 6-5 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS).

World Series champions the Dodgers were facing a 3-0 deficit in the NLCS, with the Braves leading 5-2 in the eighth inning before Bellinger's intervention at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.

With Will Smith and A.J. Pollock on base, Dodgers star Bellinger crushed a Luke Jackson fastball into the right-field bleachers.

Three batters later, Mookie Betts laced a go-ahead double with Chris Taylor touching down, before Kenley Jansen closed out the come-from-behind win.

Jansen moved to outright second most MLB postseason saves with 19.

Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox have ever erased a 3-0 deficit to win a postseason series, so the Dodgers significantly revived their hopes of reaching another MLB showpiece.

The Dodgers had opened a 2-0 lead in the first inning after Corey Seager's two-run homer, but the Braves produced a four-run fourth inning, before Adam Duvall drove in Ozzie Albies in the fifth inning for his second RBI of the game to build a 5-2 advantage.

The Braves held that lead until Bellinger's intervention in the eighth inning, with the Dodgers staying in the NLCS at 2-1.

Meanwhile, the Houston Astros levelled the American League Championship Series (ALCS) after a seven-run ninth inning guided them to a 9-2 rout of the Red Sox in Game 4 at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox had led 2-1 from the first inning after Xander Bogaerts' two-run inning, before Jose Altuve's game-tying home run in the eighth, which marked his 21st playoff home run, behind only Manny Ramirez (29) and Bernie Williams (22) overall.

With two out, Jason Castro hit a go-ahead double in the ninth inning, setting off a rush of runs – including Michael Brantley's three-run double. The Astros' seven-run ninth inning tied the most ever in the ninth inning of a postseason game.

 

Braves at Dodgers

The Dodgers will look to level the NLCS when they host the Braves on Wednesday, with Julio Urias confirmed to start on the mound for the storied Los Angeles franchise in Game 4. Elsewhere, the Red Sox and Astros will meet in Game 5 of the ALCS.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash was not happy with his team's performance after the NBA title-chasing franchise were blown away by defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks on opening night.

After unveiling their banner and championship rings in a pre-game ceremony, Giannis Antetokounmpo fuelled the Bucks to a 127-104 rout following his double-double on Tuesday.

Kevin Durant had 32 points and 11 rebounds and fellow Nets superstar James Harden put up 20 points, eight rebounds and eight rebounds as he flirted with a triple-double on the road, while Patty Mills (21 points on seven-for-seven shooting from beyond the arc) tied the NBA record for most made threes on debut for a new team.

But the Nets were no match for the Bucks in a repeat of last season's Eastern Conference semi-final after being outscored 37-25 in the opening period.

"We weren't very good," Nash said. "If you're not playing at a high level against the champs, you're not going to win."

It was a tough start to the season for Durant and Nets, who were without All-Star Kyrie Irving amid his absence because of not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

"We can’t give a team 20 more shots than us," Durant told reporters after the Bucks made 48 of 105 shots, while the Nets finished 37-84 from the field. "Imagine coming to a game and say 'here, take the ball 20 times on offense before we get an offensive position.

"This is one game out of 82 of them. We'll look at it that way. Every team will look at it that way. The Bucks won today, but they're still trying to fine-tune what they do, too.

"I think every team in the league is going to look at their first few games, first few weeks and see where their team is going and then make adjustments."

During preseason, Durant called the Bucks – spearheaded by Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday – a dynasty after they ended their 50-year wait for a championship in 2020-21.

But after Tuesday's showdown, the former MVP told reporters: "Maybe I was reaching a little bit.

"I just look at it as it's hard in the league for four or five guys to stay together as long as the Bucks did, through the ups and downs of losing in the first or second round, almost going to the Finals in 2019.

"They've been through a lot together. That's probably what I meant more than anything."

"They're just a team with some continuity," former Golden State Warriors forward Durant added. "I take that 'dynasty' thing back. I know it's a lot how that word gets thrown around. But they have some continuity a lot of teams don't have."

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