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Saturday Sports: Rafael Nadal And Naomi Osaka Will Not Compete At Wimbledon

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The Clippers close out the Jazz. There'll be a Game 7 in the Philly-Atlanta series while King James - the basketball player, not a version of the Bible - blames the short, early season for all the injuries. We're now joined by NPR's Tom Goldman. Hi there, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Boy, that Clippers game - LA has a second basketball team. They were down 25 points to the Utah Jazz last night. They were missing one of their biggest stars, but they sure got a new one in Terance Mann. What a game - 39 points.

GOLDMAN: Wow. You know, we always talk about the NBA being a stars league, but we often forget to mention, Scott, there are some incredibly talented basketball players who don't make all-star teams or millions in endorsements. And Terance Mann reminded us of that last night, filling in for a second game for the injured all-star Kawhi Leonard. I mean, this was an entire Clippers effort. But if he - if Mann hadn't exploded for 20 points in the third quarter to eat up most of that 25-point deficit, we would be heading to Game 7. As you mentioned, he had a total of 39, and for the first time in its largely pathetic half-century of existence...

SIMON: (Laughter) Well, overlooked - OK. But go ahead. Yes.

GOLDMAN: For the first time, the Clippers are in the conference finals, and that starts tomorrow. No time to waste. They will play a very good Phoenix team, although it's a Phoenix team whose veteran leader, Chris Paul, is currently in the league's COVID health and safety protocols. And we're not sure when he's back.

SIMON: Yeah. Almost every team that's made it to the playoffs has dealt with a high-profile injury or COVID absence. LeBron James said he saw this coming. The problem was the shortened season and the early start. What do you make of what he said?

GOLDMAN: Yes. Well, he was prescient, and many agree with LeBron. The shortened, condensed season after a quick turnaround from last season, it has taken a toll. The NBA appeared concerned enough about what he said that it responded by saying the injury rate is not an outlier compared to recent years. But, you know, the interesting thing is you look at the most recent high-profile injuries - Leonard we mentioned, Kyrie Irving with Brooklyn. When those happen, we predicted they would alter the postseason. So far, they haven't. We just talked about what the Clippers achieved without Leonard. Tonight, Brooklyn plays Game 7 against...

SIMON: Oh, you mean - they're the deer.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Well done, Scott. Yes. The Milwaukee Bucks - and in the Nets' case, after Irving, they do have the luxury of having two other superstars, Harden and Kevin Durant, who's been playing extraordinary basketball.

SIMON: Is Rafael Nadal essentially expressing what LeBron James says when he says he just doesn't have enough time to recover after the French Open and he'll have to sit out both Wimbledon and the Olympics?

GOLDMAN: I think there's something to that, yeah. He's 35. He's just gone through a grueling clay court season, all that running and sliding. And he said he's listening to his body, and his body is saying, don't do it. He wants to keep playing as long as he can, which won't include Wimbledon in a couple of weeks.

SIMON: And Shelby Houlihan, the American runner, has been banned from Olympic track and field competitions this year, tested positive for anabolic steroid in December. What - yeah. What was the back-and-forth about?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, USA Track and Field was going to give her a chance to run at the current track and field trials in Eugene, Ore., saying she could still run since she was appealing her four-year ban. But yesterday, she was pulled from races after other governing bodies weighed in and it was decided, regardless of appeals, she's a currently banned athlete and shouldn't be competing.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.