Former NBA star Paul Pierce believes LeBron James is not among the top five players in history.

The Los Angeles Lakers star is widely regarded as one of the best players ever, a debate which has raged again following the airing of 'The Last Dance', a documentary focusing on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

However, Pierce refused to include James – a three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP – in his top five.

"Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], Magic [Johnson], Jordan, Tim Duncan, Kobe [Bryant], [Larry] Bird, these guys are all top-10 players who have either helped build up their organisation or continued the tradition," the 10-time NBA All-Star told ESPN.

On James, Pierce said: "He went and put together a team in Miami, he came back to Cleveland and put that team together.

"Then he went to the Lakers, where a tradition has already been made, and that's still to be continued."

James' Lakers were 49-14 and top of the Western Conference when this season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Los Angeles Lakers veteran Jared Dudley is "90 per cent confident" the NBA will return amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The NBA was suspended indefinitely in March due to the COVID-19 crisis, which has wreaked havoc across the globe.

It remains to be seen when, and if, the 2019-20 season will resume – the Western Conference-leading Lakers had played 63 of the 82-game regular season when the campaign was halted.

Despite uncertainty, Dudley expressed optimism that the NBA will return after the coronavirus outbreak.

"Right now, 90 per cent confident of returning," the 34-year-old forward said on a conference call on Wednesday.

"The only reason why I wouldn’t say 100 per cent is because you're dealing with the unknown virus that can happen at any moment. They keep talking about the second wave or something unexpected."

NBA practice facilities have started to re-open this month after the league had targeted no earlier than May 8 for teams to return to their complexes.

"I don't think you're going to go from zero to 100," Dudley said. "I think they'll give us seven to 10 days of individual workouts. Then that next seven days practice. And then you'll get your two- to three-week training camp before we head to Orlando and Vegas."

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is reportedly considering the league returning via two locations – Orlando and Las Vegas.

Discussing the possible bubble-like format, Dudley said: "You will be allowed to leave. Now just because you leave, if we're going to give you that leeway, if you come back with corona, you can't play."

Dudley added: "When you're dealing with 300 different players – if you've seen the [Michael] Jordan documentary, every team's got a [Dennis] Rodman. He just doesn't have green and blue hair.

"There's always someone who's outside the box, who does that, takes the risk and says, 'Hey, listen, man, I'm healthy, and I feel good.'"

Ligue 2 will adopt a 22-team competition next season following the coronavirus pandemic, the Professional Football League (LFP) decided on Wednesday.

There will be two additional teams in France's second tier in 2020-21, with Le Mans and Orleans remaining in Ligue 2 and Pau and Dunkerque moving up from the third division.

Last month, the LFP declared Paris Saint-Germain champions of Ligue 1 after ending the 2019-20 campaign prematurely due to COVID-19.

The final standings had been decided on a points-per-game basis after French prime minister Edouard Philippe said the season could not restart due to all sporting events being banned until September amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Amiens and Toulouse were relegated to Ligue 2 through just 28 matches, while Lorient and Lens were promoted.

State of Origin will be played in November as the NRL released its full revised draw on Thursday.

The NRL is set to resume its season next week amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the marquee series between Queensland and New South Wales moved.

Origin will be played on November 4, 11 and 18, with venues yet to be finalised, it was announced on Thursday.

"The changes to the schedule this year have allowed Origin to be played after the grand final – which is a first for the game, 40 years after the birth of the country's biggest sporting rivalry," NRL interim chief executive Andrew Abdo said in a statement.

The NRL Grand Final is set to be held on October 25, with the season already reduced to a 20-round schedule.

The season restarts on May 28, when Brisbane Broncos will host Parramatta Eels.

 

Best round three Opta facts:

- Broncos v Eels: Parramatta have won four of their past six games against Brisbane.
- Cowboys v Titans: North Queensland are on a nine-match winning streak against Gold Coast.
- Roosters v Rabbitohs: South Sydney's Campbell Graham has crossed for a try in each of his past three NRL games.
- Warriors v Dragons: New Zealand have lost five of their past six NRL games played in Australia, with the defeats coming by an average margin of 20 points.
- Sharks v Tigers: Wests have lost their past six games against Cronulla.
- Storm v Raiders: These two teams are the only sides yet to concede a try in the first half of a game this season.
- Panthers v Knights: Penrith have won nine of their 12 games without Nathan Cleary, who is suspended, since his debut.
- Sea Eagles v Bulldogs: Canterbury have made 30 errors across their opening two NRL games of the season.

The Arizona Coyotes acquired Taylor Hall in December knowing he will be an unrestricted free agent this upcoming offseason, but coach Rick Tocchet is confident his team can retain the star forward's services beyond this campaign.

Hall began this season with the New Jersey Devils before he was traded to the Coyotes on December 16, 2019, in exchange for three players and two draft picks.

He had 10 goals and 17 assists in 35 games with Arizona and 52 points in 65 games with New Jersey and Arizona before the season was put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12.

"I'm not saying he's going to sign here, but I definitely think we're a team he's very interested in staying with," Tocchet told the ESPN On Ice podcast this week.

Hall, the 2017-18 NHL MVP, is expected to be the most sought-after free agent forward on the open market. 

"You're talking about a guy who before this was going to make a ton of money," Tocchet said. "With this whole pandemic, like he told me, he doesn't want to go through another year trying to play on a one-year contract. He wants to get settled somewhere. So, he's got a lot of different options that he's gotta weigh."

The Coyotes have not made the playoffs since 2012 and were not one of the top eight teams in the Western Conference when this season was put on hold.

State of Origin will be played in November as the NRL released its full revised draw on Thursday.

The NRL is set to resume its season next week amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the marquee series between Queensland and New South Wales moved.

Origin will be played on November 4, 11 and 18, with venues yet to be finalised, it was announced on Thursday.

"The changes to the schedule this year have allowed Origin to be played after the grand final – which is a first for the game, 40 years after the birth of the country's biggest sporting rivalry," NRL interim chief executive Andrew Abdo said in a statement.

The NRL Grand Final is set to be held on October 25, with the season already reduced to a 20-round schedule.

The season restarts on May 28, when Brisbane Broncos will host Parramatta Eels.

 

Best round three Opta facts:

- Broncos v Eels: Parramatta have won four of their past six games against Brisbane.
- Cowboys v Titans: North Queensland are on a nine-match winning streak against Gold Coast.
- Roosters v Rabbitohs: South Sydney's Campbell Graham has crossed for a try in each of his past three NRL games.
- Warriors v Dragons: New Zealand have lost five of their past six NRL games played in Australia, with the defeats coming by an average margin of 20 points.
- Sharks v Tigers: Wests have lost their past six games against Cronulla.
- Storm v Raiders: These two teams are the only sides yet to concede a try in the first half of a game this season.
- Panthers v Knights: Penrith have won nine of their 12 games without Nathan Cleary, who is suspended, since his debut.
- Sea Eagles v Bulldogs: Canterbury have made 30 errors across their opening two NRL games of the season.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ryan Switzer recently met up for a throwing session with Ben Roethlisberger and reported that the veteran quarterback is throwing with no signs of last year's elbow surgery that ended his 2019 season after two games.

Switzer, fellow receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner were part of the workout with Roethlisberger, who said earlier in the offseason that he had been holding back during rehab to strengthen the elbow without overworking it.

"You know, like when the ball cuts through the air and you can hear that 'pfft-pfft-pfft' sound," Switzer told The Athletic.

"That's what JuJu said it sounded like.  I didn't hear it but, man, I have been trying to catch with no gloves for a couple of months to build up these callouses but ask my hands how they feel catching his throws."

Switzer has participated in sessions with Roethlisberger since February, so he knows exactly how much progress the quarterback has made.

"It's leaps and bounds different from when he first started," Switzer said. "There was no restraint, no hesitancy, he was just out there. He has been throwing like that for a while, and in my opinion at least, getting out there on that field for the first time and throwing full-speed routes was refreshing."

Roethlisberger will be entering his 17th NFL season and ranks fifth among active quarterbacks with 363 passing touchdowns and fourth with 56,545 yards.

The NFL has reinstated defensive end Aldon Smith from an indefinite suspension, allowing the former All-Pro an opportunity to return to American football after five years away from the game. 

Smith's ban was lifted on Wednesday after the former Oakland Raiders – now known as the Las Vegas Raiders – DE met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on a video teleconference. 

The 30-year-old's career has been plagued by substance-abuse and off-field problems and has not played since November of 2015, when he was then suspended for violating the league's substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies as a member of the Raiders. 

Smith signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys last month and will be able to join the team's virtual offseason program next week and meet with team-mates and coaches. 

The seventh overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, Smith ranked second in the NFL with 19.5 sacks with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012.

In 43 games played from 2011-13, he had 42 sacks – second most in the NFL in that span. 

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry has never missed a game in his six-year NFL career, and does not believe that streak will end, saying his recovery from hip surgery is "ahead of schedule".

Landry was saddled by a hip injury all of last season after getting injured in training camp.

Despite being slowed, he still managed to lead the Browns with 83 receptions, 1,174 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns to earn a fifth Pro Bowl selection.

"Rehab process is going great," Landry said on Wednesday on a Zoom call from his home in Florida.

"It's just a little difficult obviously, just some of the modality type of things I've been doing that obviously with quarantine and everything I haven't been able to have access to. So that's kind of been the toughest part of it.

"Right now I'm a little bit ahead of schedule, but the most important thing right now is taking it day by day. I can't predict when exactly I'll be on the field, whether that's July, August or September. But obviously my return date is sometime in August."

Landry originally considered against having surgery and gutting out another season playing with pain before opting to go under the knife following the Pro Bowl in February.

He said on Wednesday that having surgery was "absolutely" the right decision.

"It was something I knew I needed," the 27-year-old said. "I was going to try and put off and play the tough guy for one more year. But just understanding where I was, the things it was not allowing me to do, I did not want to be part of the reason for the team not having success."

Rehab from the surgery was expected to take six to eight months, which puts his availability for the 2020 season opener in question.

Landry, though, is motivated to extend his games played streak and sees himself being ready for training camp, when players are cleared to practice amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"That's one of the goals that I would set out for myself since I was a kid watching 'Monday Night Football'," he said.

"And it's still something that's in the back of my mind. Obviously I want to make sure that I'm going through this process the right way, too, and making sure that I'm healthy enough to be able to go out there and help the team win games and not hurt the team."

Washington Redskins rookie wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden announced he contracted the coronavirus three months ago and has fully recovered. 

"During my pre-draft training, I tested positive for COVID-19 on March 24," Gandy-Golden said in a statement released by his agent on Wednesday.

"My symptoms thankfully were mild, but I self-quarantined for two weeks and followed all guidelines from health experts. I was fully cleared April 7."

Two weeks after being cleared of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 327,000 worldwide, the Redskins selected Gandy-Golden in the fourth round with the 142nd overall pick. 

Gandy-Golden is the third NFL player to publicly announce a positive test for COVID-19, joining Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller and Los Angeles Rams center Brian Allen.

Patrick Chung and the New England Patriots have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to widespread reports.

The deal keeps Chung under contract with New England through 2023, his age-36 season.

Veteran safety Chung receives a $3million signing bonus and is now due up to $12.8m over the next four years. 

The revamped deal also provides the Patriots with some much-needed salary cap relief, creating $925,000 in cap space. 

The 34th pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, Chung has been a mainstay in New England's secondary for almost all of his time in the pros, spending 10 of his 11 seasons with the Patriots save for the 2013 campaign with the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Since rejoining the Patriots in 2014, Chung has appeared in 91 of 96 regular-season games with 82 starts. 

He also started all 12 of New England's playoff games en route to their Super Bowl appearances following the 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons, three of which resulted in championships. 

Watford defender Adrian Mariappa has revealed he tested positive for coronavirus.

The Premier League announced six positive results from three clubs on Tuesday after 748 tests were carried out on players and staff at 19 of the top-flight teams.

Burnley confirmed that assistant Ian Woan had tested positive and Mariappa on Wednesday spoke of his surprise at finding out he has COVID-19.

"It's quite scary how you can feel absolutely fine and not really have left the house, and yet still get the virus," Mariappa told Telegraph Sport.

"If it wasn't for the fact I had gone back to training and had this test, then I'd never have found out that I had the virus and I would just be getting on with things as normal. That's obviously quite a strange thought.

"I live with three of my children, who are five, nine and 11, and my partner and, obviously, now I'm a bit worried about them.

"They are all fine and are not showing any symptoms, but you can't help but think about it and keep your distance once you know you've tested positive."

Those who tested positive will self-isolate for seven days.

Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga clubs will remember those who have lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic by holding a minute's silence before each game during the next two matchdays.

Football in the German top flight and second tier returned behind closed doors last weekend, with both leagues having been suspended since March because of COVID-19.

There have been nearly 178,000 confirmed cases in Germany, while over 8,000 people have died as a result of the virus.

The German Football League (DFL) on Wednesday announced plans to pay tribute to the victims.

"Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga will remember the victims of the coronavirus pandemic before the games of the next two matchdays 27 and 28," a statement read.

"The teams will also wear a black ribbon."

DFL CEO Christian Seifert said: "The spread of the coronavirus has already claimed many lives worldwide.

"German professional football would like to express its condolences on the next two matchdays.

"At the same time, we should give a great deal of thanks and appreciation to all those who are working tirelessly in the fight against the effects of the pandemic in medicine, care, politics and many other areas in our country."

Russia president Vladimir Putin has promised Khabib Nurmagomedov's father the "best medical treatment available", the UFC lightweight champion's manager said.

This week, Khabib confirmed his father, Abdulmanap, recently underwent heart surgery and was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Khabib announced his father is in a "critical condition", while his representative – Ali Abdelaziz – confirmed to ESPN he has been put into a medically induced coma in Moscow.

"I can confirm Khabib's father is in a medically induced coma," he told ESPN.

"Khabib has been in contact with Vladimir Putin over the last several days, and he has promised Khabib's father will receive the best medical treatment available.

"Khabib's number one message to people around the world right now is to stay at home, to prevent the spread of coronavirus."

In separate comments to MMAfighting.com, he added: "The president reached out to him a couple of times.

"It makes us a little bit at ease, but everything's in Allah's hands. Everything is in Allah's hands and we can get all the help we can."

UFC president Dana White and long-time rival Conor McGregor have been among those to offer their well wishes to Khabib.

The undefeated lightweight champion was due to defend his belt against Tony Ferguson last month but travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic prevented the bout from going ahead.

Ferguson this month lost a behind-closed-doors fight to Justin Gaethje, who is now expected to be Khabib's next opponent with White targeting a September showdown.

Jurgen Klopp was pictured heading into Liverpool's Melwood facility donning a face covering as the Reds prepared to resume training.

The runaway Premier League leaders are to recommence small group sessions on Wednesday as the top flight in England steps up preparations towards a potential June return amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Liverpool posted a picture of boss Klopp alongside his assistant Pep Lijnders, with the German seen covering his face while entering the building.

Prior to the suspension of the Premier League in March due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Liverpool were 25 points clear of second-place Manchester City.

Speaking on Tuesday, Klopp said he was "over the moon" about the prospect of Liverpool returning to training and said he wants his team to be prepared for the challenge of winning the two matches they need to be crowned champions.

"When we start, it goes really again for everything. The competition will make the intensity," he said.

"So, it's not about, 'Oh, Liverpool have to win two games'. By the way, we have to win two games when we start – it's not 'only two', it's two. It's not less or more.

"We have to win them, it's not that we want to win the last two or whatever and come through somehow.

"We want to play the best possible football, better than other teams fighting for the Champions League, fighting to stay in the league.

"We have to do it, unfortunately, without the best boost in the world and the best kick in your a** in the right moment in the world, from the Anfield crowd."

Sessions are to be non-contact and staggered throughout the day to ensure the Premier League's Return to Training Protocol is adhered to.

Midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum said he is itching to get going.

"I'm really looking forward to that because we all love football, we all love to play football, so we want to play as much as we can," he told Liverpool's official website.

"Also, the moment and the situation we were in was quite good, so it was really hard for us [professionally] that it stopped immediately after the game against Atletico Madrid [where Liverpool were knocked out of the Champions League].

"In two months we didn't do something and we are happy that we can start again."

Michael Jordan has been branded a liar by ex-Chicago Bulls team-mate Horace Grant over claims made in 'The Last Dance' series.

In the 10-part docuseries, co-produced by ESPN and Netflix, Jordan accused Grant – who won three NBA championships with the Bulls – of being a source for Sam Smith's book 'The Jordan Rules', which paints the Hall of Famer in an unflattering light.

But Grant, whose relationship with Jordan soured and who later left for the Orlando Magic, denied the accusations and said Jordan merely holds a "grudge".

"Lie, lie, lie. If MJ had a grudge with me, let's settle this like men," Grant said on ESPN 1000 radio. 

"Let's talk about it. Or we can settle it another way. But yet and still, he goes out and puts this lie out that I was the source behind [The Jordan Rules]. 

"Sam Smith and I have always been great friends. We're still great friends. But the sanctity of that locker room, I would never put anything personal out there. 

"The mere fact that Sam Smith was an investigative reporter. That he had to have two sources, two, to write a book, I guess. Why would MJ just point me out?

"It's only a grudge, man. I'm telling you, it was only a grudge. And I think he proved that during this so-called documentary. When if you say something about him, he's going to cut you off, he's going to try to destroy your character."

The legendary Scottie Pippen, who was beside Jordan for each of the Bulls' six championships in an eight-year span, was another ex-player to appear in the documentary who was supposedly unhappy with his portrayal.

In one episode, Jordan said Pippen was "selfish" over his decision to delay foot surgery that saw him miss the start of the 1997-98 season.

"I have never seen a quote-unquote number two guy, as decorated as Scottie Pippen, portrayed so badly," added Grant, who suggested that the documentary was not a true reflection of events given the role Jordan's production company had in the making of the show.

"When that so-called documentary is about one person, basically, and he has the last word on what's going to be put out there…it's not a documentary.

"It's his narrative of what happens in the last, quote-unquote, dance. That's not a documentary because a whole bunch of things was cut out, edited out. So that's why I call it a so-called documentary."

Grant said that Jordan has a history of holding grudges, adding: "My point is, he said that I was the snitch, but yet and still after 35 years he brings up his rookie year going into one of his team-mates' rooms and seeing [drugs] and women.

"Why the hell did he want to bring that up? What's that got to do with anything? I mean, if you want to call somebody a snitch, that's a damn snitch right there."

Queensland coach Kevin Walters is open to welcoming Greg Inglis back to State of Origin as the veteran makes his return to rugby league.

Inglis, 33, has signed a one-year deal with Super League side Warrington Wolves for 2021, it was announced on Tuesday.

The former Australia and Maroons star retired last year after a stellar career in the NRL, Origin and at international level.

Inglis made 32 appearances for Queensland between 2006 and 2018, and Walters would be open to having the veteran feature for his state again.

"Of course it can happen," he told Fox Sports on Wednesday.

"You've always got to keep your options open everywhere and Greg was such a fantastic player for the Maroons over that period of time that he played for us.

"Unfortunately, he didn't get to go out on his terms as such, so it's always an open invitation when you play for the Maroons.

"We've pulled some great players out of retirement and back into the jersey and with huge success, so Greg would certainly fall into that category."

Although the Texas Rangers have never played a game or even had an organised workout in their new $1.2billion stadium, they would prefer to train there instead of returning to Arizona whenever it is time to get back to spring training.

If MLB and the Players' Association can come to an agreement, the season could start in July. That would be preceded by a second spring training, and teams could have the option to have it either in their home ballparks or at their spring camps in Florida or Arizona.

"Our preference would be to stay here in Texas and have spring training 2.0 or however you want to refer to it," Rangers president and general manager Jon Daniels said on Tuesday.

"So, if that holds, then we would hold camp here in Arlington."

While the Rangers would not have multiple fields available like at their complex in Surprise, Arizona, the new stadium would provide other resources and many advantages.

"One of the critical pieces here is being able to space people our responsibly and safely, and we're going to have as much or more space than anybody. And brand new, clean, state-of-the-art facilities," Daniels said.

Training in Texas would also allow the Rangers to escape the intense summer heat of Arizona, where manager Chris Woodward still lives. He was already talking about extreme temperatures last week while expressing his preference for workouts in Texas.

"We have more space, certainly indoor space, here. And then, when you look at the reality of the weather in Arizona … yeah, you have six and a half fields, but are you really going to use that when it's 115 [degrees] outside?" Daniels said.

"I don't think the advantage of the more additional fields would have benefited us, that kind of played partially into our decision to stay here."

Carlos Sainz Jr. hopes Fernando Alonso makes his return to Formula One next year.

Alonso, 38, has been linked with a return to Renault, having left F1 at the end of 2018 following 17 seasons.

Sainz, who will join Ferrari from McLaren next year, said he hoped to see his fellow Spaniard return.

"F1 is for the best and Alonso is one of them," he told Movistar+ on Tuesday.

"It is his place and I would like him to be there. Fernando can decide … I want him to decide what makes him happy, but I would like him to be there."

Sainz finished sixth in the drivers' championship last year, while the 2020 season is yet to get underway due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the 25-year-old has signed with Ferrari, he is still eager to deliver for McLaren this season.

"I understand people who want to see me in red and fighting for podiums and victories," Sainz said.

"But 2020 is a different year and we are going to be required to work very hard. My love for McLaren, I want to leave with my homework well done."

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