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Utah Jazz charter flight forced to make emergency landing after striking flock of birds

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The Utah Jazz‘s team charter plane had to make an emergency landing shortly after takeoff on Tuesday after striking a flock of birds that resulted in an engine issue, a team source who was on the flight told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Jazz were en route to Memphis, where they play the Grizzlies on Wednesday evening.

According to the source, players heard a loud bang and saw a flash from the left engine.

The plane returned to the Salt Lake City airport, where the team was awaiting a new flight.

Some players appeared to react to the situation on Twitter, with Donovan Mitchell tweeting a praying-hands emoji and Rudy Gobert writing, “It’s a beautiful day!



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Top European prospect Tudor Somacescu signs with Overtime Elite

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Tudor Somacescu, one of Europe’s most promising prospects, is signing with Overtime Elite, the league told ESPN Tuesday.

Somacescu is the 12th player to sign with Overtime Elite, bringing them halfway to their stated goal of 24 players for the upstart league’s inaugural season.

The Romanian-born Somacescu, who turned 16 last month, spent this past season as a freshman at Sierra Canyon high school in Southern California alongside top-five recruit Amari Bailey and Bronny James, son of LeBron James. He is currently the youngest player on Overtime’s roster.

He gained notoriety as the youngest player in FIBA history to average double-figure scoring in a European Championship, which he did just weeks after turning 14 years old, playing up two age categories at the U16 European Championship Division B in 2019. Somacescu made his debut in the Romanian first division competing against professionals last winter before departing for the U.S.

Somacescu, at 6-foot-2, is a creative point guard with strong ball-handling and passing ability who stands out with his competitiveness and feel for the game which has allowed him to hold his own against older players from an early age.

Overtime Elite has made significant headway since its inception in March with its goal of becoming a legitimate alternative pathway for elite high school and international prospects to use as a training program and exposure platform. Thanks to significant financial backing and the hires of former national championship winning coach Kevin Ollie and several former NBA executives, OTE has signed five five-star recruits in Jalen Lewis, Amen Thompson, Ausar Thompson, Matthew Bewley and Ryan Bewley, while also landing a projected top-20 pick in 2022 in Dominican guard Jean Montero.

OTE says they will continue recruiting another 12-18 signings before their teams assemble in Atlanta in September to begin training and playing games against prep schools in the US and international teams abroad.

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Gold medalist Scottie Pippen offers memorabilia, a culinary spread and other amenities during Airbnb promotion

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Have you ever wanted to kick back and watch the Olympics at a Hall of Famer’s crib? If so, Scottie Pippen is offering an opportunity to do just that.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist is offering basketball fans a nightly rate of $92 for full access to his two-bed, one-bath Airbnb listing to “cheer on the next generation of Olympians from my home court!”

Pippen’s home is located in Highland Park, Illinois and valued at $2 million.

Bookings begin at 1 p.m. EDT on July 22nd for three respective stays on August 2, 4 and 6. Guests are responsible for their own travel to and from the abode.

Upon checking in, guests will receive a virtual greeting from Pippen, who last month announced the launching of his bourbon company DIGITS.

“When you enter my home, you’ll step into sports history – finding Olympic Games memorabilia from my time as a U.S. Olympian, plus items from Team USA’s 2020 Medal Stand Collection that you can take home with you!” the six-time NBA champion describes in the listing.

Respective guests can bring up to three visitors for the overnight stay, which will include an opportunity to check out the Olympic action from Pippen’s home theater with his indoor basketball court not far away.

Other accessible amenities include:

• An outdoor pool with an outdoor television to remain tuned into the Olympic Games

• Playing a few games of your own in Pippen’s arcade room

• Relaxing in an indoor sauna

• Dining on a pre-game spread of fresh fruits with veggies or Pippen’s big-game dinner of steak, a baked potato and asparagus

The 2010 Naismith Hall of Fame inductee remains one of the most decorated players Team USA has ever had. In the program’s history, he ranks tenth in points (170), third in assists (47) and is tied with LeBron James in steals (36). In 1996, Pippen won his second career gold medal and was named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players ever. His No. 33 is among four retired digits in Bulls history.

The 2020 Tokyo Games were initially scheduled for last summer, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed them back to this year.



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Giannis Antetokounmpo staying calm and focused with Milwaukee Bucks on the verge of an NBA championship

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MILWAUKEE — For eight years, Giannis Antetokounmpo has worked toward the moment he and the Milwaukee Bucks find themselves in right now: one win away from an NBA championship.

So it should come as little surprise that Monday afternoon, just over 24 hours before playing the biggest game of his NBA career, when he and the Bucks can win the title in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at home against the Phoenix Suns, Antetokounmpo admitted that the mantra he has repeated ad nauseam throughout these playoffs — to stay focused on the present and not think about the future — is harder to live by than ever.

“It’s hard, man,” Antetokounmpo said with a smile after Monday’s practice at Fiserv Forum. “It’s hard. Because you work so hard to be in that moment, which is tomorrow. It’s hard not to get ahead of yourself.

“But this is the time that you got to be the most disciplined. That’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m going to try to be as disciplined as possible. Don’t get too excited. Don’t get too pumped up for the game. None of that. I can’t play the game right now … right now, there’s nothing I can do about that. So I don’t even try to think about that. But it’s very hard not to. Sometimes you sleep and you’re dreaming about the game.

“But this is the time that we have to be disciplined individually … we got to be disciplined and we cannot worry about that. We cannot worry about having plans of celebrating. None of that, until it’s done. And that is the mindset I’m going to have until tomorrow.”

Staying even-keeled and focused on the moment are key components the Bucks collectively, and Antetokounmpo personally, say they’ve been missing in their failed playoff runs over the past few seasons. This was particularly the case the past two years, when Milwaukee — after entering the playoffs as the top seed in the Eastern Conference — crashed out in losses to the Toronto Raptors in the conference finals two years ago and to the Miami Heat in the conference semifinals in the NBA’s bubble last season.

Throughout this season, however, the Bucks have been determined to approach things differently. And despite falling behind in each of the past three playoffs series — including going down 2-0 to both the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference semifinals and the Suns in this series — Milwaukee has managed to do just that.

The Bucks have done so, in large part, because their leader has been able to do so by sticking to that mantra of staying in the moment, enjoying the competition and letting the results fall where they may.

“We didn’t get too high, we didn’t get too low,” Antetokounmpo said. “We were down 0-2 to Brooklyn. Came back. We did our job. We’re down right now. We came back, did our job. We were down against Atlanta [in the conference finals]. Came back, did our job. We were up against Miami. Went there, did our job.

“We kept focusing, building good habits. I think it comes from, as I said, Coach [Mike Budenholzer], Khris [Middleton], Jrue [Holiday], me, to have that mentality. And then you pass down to the whole team. So we did a really good job.

“Now, is it going to end up well in the championship? Who knows. But no matter how it ends up, I’m really proud of this team. Really proud of all the work we have put in.”

Antetokounmpo, who revealed during his news conference that his longtime girlfriend is expecting the couple’s second child, has been relaxed and engaging throughout the Finals during his media availability, whether on practice days or after wins and losses on game days.

That same atmosphere has permeated the Bucks, who have shown to be unflappable in situations that, in the past, would’ve sent them spiraling — and, ultimately, sent them home falling short of their goals.

It’s a mindset Milwaukee is hoping can pull it through what will be a very long 24 hours before Tuesday’s tipoff (9 p.m. ET, ABC).

“Treating it like every regular-season game that we have had, every playoff game that we have had,” Middleton said. “Taking one game at a time and every game is a must-win. That’s it.”

Part of what has allowed Milwaukee to approach things that way are the trials and tribulations this group has gone through together. The core of the team — other than Holiday and P.J. Tucker, who arrived this season — have been through those playoff failures of the past two seasons together. Antetokounmpo and Middleton, meanwhile, have been teammates for the past eight seasons here in Milwaukee and have played more than 60 playoff games together in their careers.

That’s a lot of shared experiences to lean on and learn from — particularly as the Bucks have tried to rewrite their history this time around.

“It helped me mature and grow and become more mentally tough,” Antetokounmpo said of those past failures. “It doesn’t really matter. This is a playoff game. Anything can happen. I remember in the [2019] Eastern Conference finals [against Toronto], we were up 2-0 and lost four straight. I’m trying to think what was the mindset of the other team.

“Leaving Milwaukee down 2-0, and now they’re thinking they got to go back home, protect home court and then come back here, get one. I’m just trying to think about what they did and try to learn from our mistakes and our failures as much as possible.

“I don’t focus on the past. I try to learn from it and move on. I think it has helped me throughout my career. When we were down 2-0, [I thought], ‘They did it, why cannot we do it?’ That kind of thing. Or when we’re up 2-0, ‘finish. Get the job done.'”

He also admitted he hasn’t always been able to lock into that type of mentality.

“I think, early in my career, I was getting too high, too low,” he said. “We played a good game, I was so happy, because you feel the intensity from the crowd, the fans cheering and all that, and how the trip back home if we were on the flight or whatever the case might be, we were here at home, playing at home, how I felt good going back home. I was getting too high, and maybe the loss I felt like it was the end of the world.

“I feel like this year, lose or win, that did not happen. I was the same kind of guy. I just live with whatever outcome comes because I believe that I’m supposed to be there in that time and place. So I don’t really worry about the outcome.”

It’s a mindset Antetokounmpo will now try to apply to the biggest game of his life, as he tries to lift his Bucks to the same outcome they’ve had the past three games — all wins that have moved Milwaukee closer to winning a championship for the first time in a half-century.

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