Is this the end of Venus Williams' career?

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Is this the end of Venus Williams' career?

From Comcast SportsNet Thursday, September 1, 2011
NEW YORK (AP) -- Two days after playing her first match in two months, Venus Williams suddenly pulled out of the U.S. Open on Wednesday, revealing she recently was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain. The 31-year-old American has won seven Grand Slam titles, including at Flushing Meadows in 2000 and 2001. "I enjoyed playing my first match here, and wish I could continue but right now I am unable to," Williams said in a statement released by the tournament. "I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon." She was supposed to face 22nd-seeded Sabine Lisicki in the second round Wednesday. Williams cited a virus when withdrawing from hard-court tuneup tournaments since losing in the fourth round at Wimbledon in late June. She returned to action Monday, beating Vesna Dolonts 6-4, 6-3 in the first round in New York, then said: "No one is more in one-match-at-a-time mode than me now at this tournament. It will just be one match at a time, for sure." According to the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation website, the disease is a chronic autoimmune illness in which people's white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands. Common symptoms include dry eyes and dry mouth. As many as 4 million Americans have the disease. In rare cases, it can cause arthritis and joint pain, said Dr. John Fitzgerald, director of clinical rheumatology at UCLA. Fitzgerald is not involved in treating Williams and does not know her symptoms or medical history. But, he said, if Williams has the typical symptoms, "it does not seem life-threatening or career-ending." Williams arrived at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Wednesday hours before her match was scheduled to begin and tried warming up by hitting balls. When Williams left the site shortly before 5 p.m., wearing a white sweater and purple shorts, she was asked by reporters whether she would say anything. She smiled and waved and shook her head to indicate, "No," then climbed into the back of a tournament transportation car and rode away. "All of us came with the full expectation she'd be playing today. She was geared up to play her match," said Williams' agent, Carlos Fleming. "I just hope she's OK," Fleming added, "and I hope she's healthy and going to be fine." Despite all of her past success, including a brief stint at No. 1 in the rankings, Williams was unseeded at the U.S. Open, because she has fallen to 36th after a year of little action. Since reaching the semifinals at last year's U.S. Open, Williams has played only 11 matches, and the WTA projects that her ranking now will slide out of the top 100. Her younger sister, Serena, a 13-time Grand Slam champion, is scheduled to play her second-round match Thursday. "A lot of times, they've drawn a lot of criticism. But, trust me, (in) five years, when they're gone, everyone is going to miss them. Everyone is going to realize they're going to be living legends for the rest of their lives. Two girls from Compton, dominating tennis -- that's not an everyday story," said 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick, who's known the Williams sisters for about two decades. "Venus is just the epitome of class, the way she's gone about it," he said. "I don't think she's ever even had a sniff of controversy around her. She's just done it the right way." On Monday, Venus Williams was asked about the illness that caused her to skip tournaments this summer. She said that night that her ailment had been diagnosed, but wouldn't say what it was. "It was just energy-sucking, and I just couldn't play pro tennis," she said Monday. "It was disappointing, because I had huge plans for this summer, of course, to improve my ranking. To miss out on all those points was definitely devastating. Just to miss so much time off tour was just disheartening. But I'm just really excited to be back." Lisicki said she saw Venus Williams on the practice courts and in the locker room and expected to play their match -- until the tournament referee passed along the news of the withdrawal. "She's a tough girl, and I think she'll come back. You know, it would be unfortunate if she couldn't," Lisicki said. "Serena and Venus both are amazing players, and it's nice to have them in the women's sport. I hope she comes back."

Celtics are living by the 3-pointer at a historic level

Celtics are living by the 3-pointer at a historic level

BOSTON – It has been well-established that the Celtics are a three-point shooting, bombs away kind of team and nothing seems like it’ll deter them from continuing along that path.
 
But as we prepare for the second half of the season, beginning tonight against the New York Knicks, we come to realize Boston’s launching of 3-pointers isn’t just unusually high.
 
This group of Celtics rank among the league's all-time leaders in 3-point attempts by the halfway mark of the season.

And when you look at the company they’re keeping when it comes to 3-point shooting, it speaks to how important it has become in this NBA to have as many long-range shooting threats on the floor as possible if you're trying to win at a high level.
 
Boston’s 494 3-point attempts thus far this season ranks fourth all-time by the halfway point of a season. But this season, that’s just good enough to be third behind Houston and Golden State with 617 and 505 three-point attempts, respectively.
 
The other team in the top four all-time is last season's Golden State squad, which took 519 three-pointers by the midway point of the season.
 
And all those 3’s by the Celtics have included an NBA-record six straight games in which they made at least 15 3-pointers.
 
That has allowed the Celtics to score at least 100 points in 15 consecutive games, the franchise’s longest such streak since they reached the 100-point plateau in 19 straight games in 1991.
 
Of course Isaiah Thomas’ 3-point shooting stands out, particularly when you see how dominant he has been this season in the fourth quarter with a league-best 10.1 points per game.
 
But his offense, while potent, is aided heavily by the shot-making snipers coach Brad Stevens surrounds him with on a nightly basis.
 
That’s why you didn’t see Stevens or president of basketball operations Danny Ainge freak out earlier this season when the Celtics were struggling.
 
Kelly Olynyk, who shot better than 40 percent on 3’s a year ago, was still on the mend after offseason shoulder surgery.
 
Jae Crowder, whose 3-point shooting has steadily improved throughout his career, had some minor injuries that set him back and maybe more important, didn’t allow him to get into the kind of shooting rhythm we see now which has allowed him to shoot a team-best 42.6 percent on 3’s.
 
Al Horford, Thomas, Amir Johnson … they all missed some time due to injuries this season, which has impacted the team’s chemistry and timing.
 
But the past couple of weeks have seen the Celtics healthier than they’ve been most of this season, and it has allowed them to play with the kind of space they want which has allowed Thomas and his cohorts to take lots of lightly contested to open 3’s most of this season.
 
“We’ve got pretty good shooters on this team where you’ve got to pick your poison,” Thomas said. “We’re shooting at a high level, and I got to say, you just have to pick your poison who you want to stop and my job is just to make the right play each and every time down.”
 

Mitchell (knee) 'feeling well' as he prepares for AFC title game

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Mitchell (knee) 'feeling well' as he prepares for AFC title game

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Mitchell indicated before Wednesday's practice that he's feeling pretty good despite missing last weekend's Divisional Round matchup with the Texans due to a knee injury. 

"I'm feeling well," he said. "Just taking it day by day. Preparing. I just go from there."

Mitchell suffered the injury in a Week 16 win over the Jets at Gillette Stadium. He missed the regular-season finale and has been limited in practice in recent weeks. 

Mitchell was present for Wednesday's fully-padded practice outdoors, and he said it was crucial for him to prepare as though he will play even if he's unsure as to whether or not he'll be called upon. 

"That's the most important thing," he said. "Be ready for any opportunities that could come about."

He added: "As a competitor, no one wants to miss a game. What's important is the team going out theere and competing whether I was out there or not."

Should Mitchell be at all limited moving forward, the Patriots would likely continue to lean upon Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan as their top options. Both Danny Amendola and Michael Floyd were in uniform for last weekend's playoff matchup with Houston as well. 

Hogan suffered a thigh injury that knocked him from the Texans game, but he said on Tuesday that he was progressing well, and he was also on the field for Wednesday's practice. 

Mitchell said there is a sense of confidence in the receivers room that because of their depth, they'll be good to go as a group even if one or two members of the unit are at less than 100 percent. 

"We know there's some things we can't control," he said, "but our coach does a good job of getting everybody ready."