More Sports In Brief
NBA extends ESPN, TNT deals
NEW YORK (AP): The National Basketball Association (NBA) has extended its television deals with ESPN and TNT for nine years. The league announced yesterday that the new contracts will run through the 2024-25 season. The previous eight-year agreements end after the 2015-16 season. The NBA received about $930 million annually under the old deals.
The NBA Finals remain on ABC, ESPN's broadcast partner. ESPN/ABC and TNT will continue to split the conference finals. ESPN and ABC are adding 10 regular-season games, bringing their total to 100. TNT will air an additional 12 games over the second half of the season, on nights other than its traditional Thursday, bringing its total to 64.
Courtois given all-clear
LONDON (AP): Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is free to report for international duty with Belgium this week after being given the all-clear following tests on a head injury sustained during an English Premier League game. Courtois went to the hospital as a precaution after getting hurt in a collision with Alexis Sanchez in the 2-0 win over Arsenal on Sunday.
Chelsea said in a statement that Courtois was "treated for a minor cut to his ear and was released from hospital" late Sunday, adding that "he is expected to report for international duty later this week".
Courtois played on after receiving treatment following the collision, but was later substituted. New rules introduced by the English Football Association say a player must be removed from the field if there is a suspicion of concussion.
Italy coach plays down dropping Balotelli
FLORENCE, Italy (AP): Italy coach Antonio Conte has played down his exclusion of Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli for upcoming European Championship qualifying matches. Since transferring to Liverpool from AC Milan after the World Cup, Balotelli has yet to score in five appearances in the English Premier League and was also left off last month's Italy squad.
Conte said: "He started on a new path, it's not easy. Let's give him time to integrate himself in this new league."
Southampton striker Graziano Pelle received his first call up and Conte says he "represents that which I've said from the very first day - meritocracy".
Italy host Azerbaijan in Palermo on Friday, then make a short trip to visit Malta three days later.