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Agassi makes 1st return to Australian Open

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Agassi makes 1st return to Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Andre Agassi says one of the biggest regrets of his career was waiting until 1995 - a full decade after turning professional - to play in the Australian Open.

It took him a while to return to Melbourne after his retirement in 2006, too.

``It feels long overdue,'' Agassi said Friday when he walked into the news conference room at Melbourne Park in his first trip back since his loss to Roger Federer in the quarterfinals in 2005.

The four-time Australian Open champion pulled out his cellphone and snapped a photo of the reporters crammed into the tiny space. ``Do you mind if I memorialize this for posterity?'' he asked the room to laughter.

Now 42 and the father of two children with wife Steffi Graf, Agassi will take part in a ceremony before the men's final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in Rod Laver Arena on Sunday.

He's glad his career ended before the age of the so-called Big Four of men's tennis because he doesn't think he'd be able to compete against the group - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Murray.

The game bears little resemblance to how he played just a decade ago, Agassi said. He ``marvels'' at the athleticism of the top men and their ability to recover quickly after draining matches, such as Djokovic's epic five-setter with Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarterfinals this week.

``It's just a different standard of tennis,'' said the eight-time Grand Slam winner. ``It's different rules of engagement when guys can do what these guys can do.

``It means the game has gotten a lot better. You know, Fed raised it. Nadal matched and raised it. Djokovic, for that intense little period of time, even raised it,'' Agassi added. ``When I see those top three guys, I see what history will say is the golden age of tennis. You're talking about arguably the three best guys.''

As for Murray, who edged Federer in five sets in the semifinal on Friday, Agassi believes the Scot is coming into his own.

``He believes now, and so now you're talking about four guys,'' he said. ``They've separated themselves from the field.''

In the final, he picked Djokovic to walk away with his third consecutive title and fourth overall Down Under.

When asked how he would have tried to beat a player of Djokovic's caliber, Agassi wisecracked, ``I would have probably gotten in a fight with him in the locker room before the match. I might have had a chance.''

Agassi also touched on the question of drug-testing in tennis in the wake of Lance Armstrong's doping confession - and reflected on his own recreational drug use during his career.

In his 2009 autobiography ``Open,'' Agassi admitted to using crystal meth during his playing days in the late 1990s and lying about it to tennis authorities after failing a drug test, telling them he unwittingly consumed a spiked drink.

Agassi said Friday he believes tennis has always led the way on drug testing, but more transparency and greater accountability can only be a good thing.

``It would have kept me from destroying a few years of my life,'' he said. ``That's what I did to myself with the use of the recreational, destructive substance of crystal meth.

``Anything that can protect the integrity of the sport, and those that aren't cheating should absolutely be considered. The more (testing), the better as far as I'm concerned.''

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NBA Rumors: Lakers reportedly waive DeMarcus Cousins

NBA Rumors: Lakers reportedly waive DeMarcus Cousins

After signing Markieff Morris to a contract following the former Wizard's buy out from the Pistons, the Lakers reportedly waived center DeMarcus Cousins to open a roster spot. 

Health has been a major issue over the last two years for Cousins. He hasn't played a game this year thanks to a torn ACL he suffered before the season, and he missed all but 30 games last year due to an Achilles injury he suffered with the Pelicans midway through the 2017-18 season. 

Before injuries robbed Cousins of the majority of his prime, he was arguably the best big man in the game. Prior to his Achilles injury in New Orleans, he was averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists while shooting 47% percent from the floor and 35.4% from three on 6.1 attempts per game. 

For the Wizards, Cousins could represent another low risk, high reward big man acquisition that the Lakers couldn't find any use for. Washington acquired both Thomas Bryant and Moe Wagner from LA for practically nothing and both have played well after their relocation to D.C. 

Also, John Wall played with Cousins at the University of Kentucky and both have mentioned a desire to play together again at some point. Neither player is expected to return from injury this season, so they could both go on an NBA revenge tour together alongside Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and Rui Hachimura. 

In the meantime, we'll have to wait and see what Cousins decides to do. According to ESPN's Bobby Marks, Cousins won't officially be waived until Sunday. The team who claims him will be able to offer him up to $4.2 million in salary this summer. 

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Three things to look for during the Orioles first spring training game Saturday

Three things to look for during the Orioles first spring training game Saturday

Baseball isn’t quite in full swing yet. But it’s close enough. 

The Orioles will open up their spring slate of games on Saturday against the Braves in North Port, Fla. It’s both the first game of spring training for both teams. 

The game can be listened to on Orioles.com or on the MLB At-Bat app. 

So here are three things to pay attention to during the first game of the spring: 

1. The starting pitching

The pitching was, to be frank, atrocious last season for the Orioles. 2020 doesn’t figure to showcase a large jump, either. 

Baltimore will start Chandler Shepherd against the Braves, a pitcher who started three games last season in Baltimore. He allowed 23 hits and 14 earned runs in 19 innings pitched and posted a 6.63 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP.

Ty Blach will pitch in relief of Shepherd. Blach pitched in five games last season for the Orioles and threw 20 ⅓ innings with an ERA 11.32. 

While neither will likely make the Opening Day roster, it’ll give an interesting look at what could be in store for the rest of spring training in Sarasota. 

2. How much the prospects play

For most major league clubs, there’s not much to get excited about for the first few games of spring training. The Orioles, though, are in a bit of a unique circumstance. 

In the second year of a rebuild, the Orioles are placing their future in the hands of younger prospects, meaning there’s always a chance for a few players to stand out in the first weeks of camp. 

While the lineups aren’t known yet, both for Saturday’s game and for the immediate future, getting a glimpse at some of the younger prospects like Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, Gunnar Henderson, and DL Hall is what fans have been clamoring for. 

3. The return of baseball

It’s not the return of baseball in the truest sense of the phrase.  

The Orioles aren’t going to play their top of the line prospects, or their major league club. But the first game of the spring means that baseball, officially, is back for Baltimore. 

Even though the 2020 season almost assuredly won’t be one that resembles any kind of contention, the Orioles hitting the field once again is always an exciting time.

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