Robert Lewandowski has €70k watch stolen outside Barcelona training ground

Robert Lewandowski had his watch, worth around €70,000 ($71,000), stolen when he stopped for supporters on his way to Barcelona training on Wednesday.

Police tracked down and detained the thief, who had buried the watch, nearby.

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As Lewandowski, a €45 million summer signing from Bayern Munich, posed for photographs with fans in his car outside Barca’s training ground, the thief opened the passenger door and swiped the watch.

Lewandowski attempted to chase him but he got away, only to be later found by the local police.

Barca have had problems with security at the entrance to their training ground before, with players complaining about stunts pulled by people making videos for TikTok.

However, club sources say they will now make further changes to security to avoid similar incidents happening in the future.

Lewandowski made his debut for Barcelona in their LaLiga opener on Saturday — a disappointing goalless draw at home to Rayo Vallecano. The Poland international was registered with LaLiga only the day before after Barcelona sold more assets in order to meet the league’s strict financial regulations.

Barcelona will play their second game of the season at Real Sociedad on Sunday (streaming live, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN+).

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The USC-UCLA move intensifies college football’s SEC-Big Ten battle

The British fleet had the Spanish Armada. The United States had the Soviet Union. The Beatles had the Rolling Stones. Now the SEC has the Big Ten.

For others in the world of college sports, hearing that hurts. The truth always does.

Just as there were other navies, other nations and other rock bands, ultimately everyone else in the room, no matter who they are or what they’ve done or what they still might do, they all end up standing against the walls and watching who really matters do what really matters.

Because there are only two players in a chess match. And apologies for the cliché, but there are only two true chess masters in today’s collegiate athletics, two superpowers with the fanciest playing pieces, specifically Oklahoma and Texas and now UCLA and USC. The rest are playing checkers. They might have some nice pieces here and there, but they don’t have a whole set.

Only the Big Ten and SEC do.

Besides, we can’t use the example of Stratego or Risk. Those games use maps. If we’ve learned nothing else over the past 24 hours, it’s that maps no longer matter. The last place where it kinda sorta did was in the Pac-12. Even while making plenty of missteps over the years (see: a struggling TV network, a truly bad non-Rose Bowl lineup, repeatedly whiffing on College Football Playoff berths, a conference title game no one attended and a since-departed commissioner no one seemed to like outside of San Francisco landlords), the one aspect of being a Power 5 conference that the Pac-12 got right was geography.

It long ago locked down nearly every big brand name and TV market west of the Rockies. When the SEC was trying to convince us that Auburn was in the west and Missouri was in the east and the Big Ten was stretching itself like Mr. Fantastic to rope in the decidedly non-Midwestern Maryland Terrapins and Rutgers, and the Big 12 established an outpost in West Virginia — heck, even way back when the Big East was extending to Miami and the WAC’s struggle to survive pulled it from Hawaii to Louisiana — the Pac-12 was always the tidiest part of the atlas. So much so that when Texas and Oklahoma started sniffing around, the old school membership scoffed because the logistics of their membership felt laughable.

But that was 11 whole years ago. As former Cal Tech visiting professor Albert Einstein would remind us, time is a relative concept, and in this era of college sports, 11 years might as well be a century.

So it is that the games we used to have to wait for New Year’s Day to see — USC vs. Michigan, UCLA vs. Wisconsin — and the hoops clashes we used to see only in March — UCLA vs. Indiana — will happen every fall and winter. Hey, who cares if the vaunted UCLA volleyball team and USC tennis team have to travel a bazillion miles without charter planes? The schools say they have taken this into consideration and will have to provide concrete answers in the future.

Long bus rides and cartography concerns aside, these deals had to be done. Had to be. Had SEC commissioner Greg Sankey failed to return the phone calls of the Longhorns and Sooners one year ago, he would have lost his job. Conversely, had the administrators at Texas and Oklahoma not accepted Sankey’s invitation, they too would have rightfully been shown the door. In their defense, they waited patiently for the Big 12 bosses to make the moves that would ensure their league could keep up with the likes of the SEC and Big Ten. It did not. So, they left for much greener southeastern pastures.

Feel free to copy and paste USC, UCLA, Pac-12 and Big Ten into those sentences you just read. It works. Same situation. If they don’t ask and they don’t join or the Big Ten doesn’t agree and everyone finds out later that it could have gone down that way, they all get fired. Likewise, the flagship schools of the Pac-12, both sitting squarely in the center of America’s second-largest media market, waited for the conference to make the moves its leaders have always promised — namely, a giant media rights deal and a better seat at the expanded CFP table — and it never happened. They were losing ground, and it wasn’t getting any better. So, yes, they cut and ran.

And yes, I said flagships. USC and UCLA were not charter members of the Pac-12. When the Pacific Coast Conference was formed in 1912, the first in the fold were Cal, Washington, Oregon and Oregon State. Washington State and Stanford joined a few years later. USC didn’t come on board until 1922 and UCLA in ’28. But in the century since, they have been the flagships of the league that became the Pac-8, -10 and -12. One or the other has genuine best-of eras in multiple sports. All due respect to their colleagues on the West Coast, but when those of us who were raised east of Denver have ever thought about the Pac-12 or the Rose Bowl, it has always been the Trojans and Bruins who have immediately come to our mind’s eye. No different from how when those who were born in the Pacific time zone have been asked to play word association with terms like “Southeast” they have immediately thought of Alabama vs. Auburn, or “Southwest” led to Texas vs. Oklahoma, or “Big Ten” conjured up Michigan and Ohio State in The Game.

The Trojans and the Bruins are the biggest brands in the Pac-12. Check that, they were. Now they are taking those brands and going east, to Madison and Champaign and West Lafayette, marching Ray Bans-first into an acute case of frostbite.

It makes no sense. It hurts a lot of feelings. We might not ever get used to seeing their in-conference scores scrolling across the ESPN Bottom Line. But it’s happening. It wasn’t the first big move we didn’t see coming, and it won’t be the last. But it will always be the weirdest.

Now we wait to see what happens next. Not in the ACC, Big 12 or Pac-12, because like it or not, they’re the sparring partners relegated to standing around the wall of the gym watching as Rocky and Apollo put in their mouthpieces and climb between the ropes. Once again, they can’t do squat until the real heavyweight contenders are done doing whatever comes next.

Ding ding.

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Barcelona, Lyon battling for status as Europe’s powerhouse

When Barcelona stepped out onto the pitch at the Groupama Arena three years ago in Budapest for their first UEFA Women’s Champions League final, they were the unfavoured team, expected to be no match for Olympique Lyonnais. The narrative was set: the European juggernaut (Lyon) was clashing with the new kid on the block (Barcelona) who had to learn from their mistakes. The match played out as if it were following the same script.

Star Lyon midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsán opened the score just five minutes in, delighting the crowd in the city of her birth, and from there Barcelona began to fold into themselves with each subsequent goal. The Catalans were no slouches, but Lyon’s precision play made them look like amateurs as, time and time again that evening, the Barcelona defence was ripped wide open.

Then-manager Lluís Cortés later suggested that simply reaching the final was Barcelona’s reward at the end of the Champions League gauntlet, a comment that seems to help explain Barcelona’s poor performance, a 4-1 loss to Lyon that never really felt in doubt.

That was then. The feeling around Barcelona now could not be more different as they embark on Saturday’s Champions League final in a very different place. Seven-time champions Lyon remain a powerhouse and not a side to discount, but since Barcelona’s loss in 2019, the Catalan side has forged its way and upset the power balance in Europe. The path for each side to Turin’s final this weekend was markedly different, but both will feel they have something to prove in securing the European title.

The two years following Barcelona’s 2019 humiliation were perhaps the most important yet for the Blaugranes. Propelled by the disappointment of that loss to Lyon, they strengthened both on and off the pitch to finally regain the Spanish title in the truncated 2019-20 season after five years without the trophy. A successive title followed as Barcelona really began to flex their muscles, and their rise to the top of the European elite confirmed with their maiden Champions League title last season.

Meanwhile, the past two years for Lyon, who had been so imperious in Hungary, were punctuated by uncharacteristic wobbles. Manager Reynald Pedros departed following the conclusion of the 2018-19 season, his replacement Jean-Luc Vasseur lasting less than two seasons despite winning the domestic treble and yet another Champions League title in his only full campaign with the club. Yet there was something missing. The league title was awarded after the season was wrapped up early due to the pandemic, but the race felt far from over when the Fédération Française de Football declared Les Fenottes champions.

While Lyon had showed their overwhelming dominance as a team in Budapest, Ada Hegerberg had shone that bit brighter than her teammates — the jewel in the Lyon crown, her performance a display of an attacker at the very top of her game. The match was decided by her goals, but even beyond that, the Norwegian put on a clinic for 90 minutes and reminded everyone that she was still one of the best in the world. When Lyon lost Hegerberg to an ACL injury at the start of 2020, no one could have foreseen that she’d be out of the game for 20 months, but her absence was only part of OL’s wobbles.

The team still found ways to win, but frequently looked disjointed under Vasseur, and even when he was replaced by Sonia Bompastor, it would take time before the darlings of European football began to look like their old selves again more recently.

Barcelona’s convincing 4-0 win over Chelsea in the Champions League final last year cemented them as the new queens of Europe in the minds of those around the sport, but the path to this season’s final was less resounding and has required some careful navigation. Often this Champions League season, Barcelona have been forced to rely on moments of individual brilliance to help them through tricky games, most notably when they came from behind to win their quarterfinal first leg against Real Madrid.

Last time out in the competition, away to Wolfsburg, Barcelona put in their worst performance since the final in 2019. The team was unable to deal with the She Wolves’ press, and a tie that should never have been in question began to get a little uncomfortable at the Volkswagen Arena. Alas, Wolfsburg’s own poor finishing denied the fans a grandstand finish.

The defensive errors haven’t just been limited to one side of the draw, with Lyon still figuring themselves out under Bompastor at the start of the season. The saving grace has been the return of Hegerberg as well as the emphatic performances of rising American star Catarina Macario. Having already suffered a group stage loss to Bayern Munich, Lyon were handed their second defeat of the season by Juventus in the quarterfinals and needed to turn the tie at home the following week. Against PSG in the semifinals, the bitter rivals battled away against each other, the two 90-minute matches littered with unforced errors and uncharacteristic mistakes.

If the Champions League final three years ago was about Lyon’s brilliance versus Barcelona’s naivety, the errors both have made in European competition this season go someway to evening the playing field. Despite their highly favourable history in the Champions League, for the first time in a very long time, Lyon aren’t heading into a final as the outright favourites. Likewise, Barcelona’s weak history against Lyon stop them from claiming the favourites tag.

Saturday’s final is likely to be won by the team that can possess the ball better, and inflict the most damage when the chances are presented to them. Allowed to run riot in Budapest with no marker able to get close to her, Hegerberg will be looking for another five-star performance to cement her return to her pre-injury best, just as Barcelona’s star, Alexia Putellas, will be looking to run the show for her side. To that end, the ability of the Catalan midfield — Putellas, along with Aitana Bonmatí and Patri Guijarro — to keep the ball from Lyon will be key if they are to finally get the better of the French giants.

Even with two different managers in the dugouts on Saturday, along with a handful of different faces across both squads, Barcelona’s experience since the 2019 final stands out as the biggest difference coming into the clash, and it’s unlikely to be decided by halftime as that one was. Both Barcelona and Lyon enter this clash as legitimate contenders, despite each weathering their own struggles along the way.

It wouldn’t be the first Champions League trophy for either side — Barcelona has one to Lyon’s seven — but for Lyon, it would prove they remain the powerhouse they have always been, while for Barcelona it would further prove their rise to the top since disappointment three years ago is for the long haul.

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NBA play-in tournament 2022 – Schedule, projections and rules explained

As the NBA’s 2021-22 regular season draws to a conclusion on April 10, teams near the middle of the standings are battling for postseason seeding with a special focus on the league’s play-in tournament.

Held before the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs, the play-in tournament adds an exciting wrinkle to the end of the regular season. Teams were already less incentivized to tank games down the stretch because of the flattened lottery odds instituted in 2019. Now that the top 10 teams in the standings will finish the regular season with at least a chance to make the playoffs, more franchises will stay in the mix for longer.

The play-in tournament will be held April 12-15.

Here’s everything you need to know about the setup this season.

MORE: Current NBA standings

How the play-in race is shaping up

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Entering Wednesday, here’s how the play-in standings look in the East:

7. Cleveland Cavaliers: 43-37, 1½ games ahead of eighth
8. Brooklyn Nets, 41-38, 1½ games back
9. Atlanta Hawks, 41-38, 1½ GB
10. Charlotte Hornets: 40-39, 2½ GB

The four play-in teams in the East are set. All that is left to be determined is the seeding. The Nets are currently listed as the 8-seed over the Hawks because of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Here’s how the play-in games would look if the season ended today:

Here are Wednesday games with the potential to impact the play-in standings in the East:


WESTERN CONFERENCE

Entering Wednesday, here’s how the play-in standings look in the West:

6. Denver Nuggets: 47-33, 2 games ahead of seventh

7. Minnesota Timberwolves: 45-35, 2 games back of sixth
8. LA Clippers: 39-40 (clinched 8-seed)
9. New Orleans Pelicans: 35-44, 1 game ahead of 10th
10. San Antonio Spurs: 34-45, 1 GB

The next Nuggets win or Timberwolves loss will lock Minnesota into the 7-seed entering the play-in tournament. The Pelicans and Spurs have clinched a spot in the play-in.

Here’s how the play-in games would look if the season ended today:

There are no games Wednesday with the potential to impact the play-in standings in the West.

MORE: Full NBA schedule


How does the NBA play-in tournament work?

There will be six total games involving eight teams as part of the play-in tournament, split up between the two conferences.

The teams that finish Nos. 1-6 in each conference will be guaranteed playoff spots, while team Nos. 7-10 in the standings will enter the play-in. Any team that finishes worse than No. 10 will be in the lottery.

Here’s how the games will work:

Game 1: The No. 7 team in the standings by winning percentage will host the No. 8 team, with the winner earning the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The losing team gets another chance in Game 3.

Game 2: The No. 9 team will host the No. 10 team, with the winner moving on to Game 3. The loser is eliminated and enters the NBA draft lottery.

Game 3: The loser of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchup will host the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchup, with the victor grabbing the No. 8 seed in the postseason. The loser of Game 3 also enters the lottery.

This means that the teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages will have two opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot, while the teams with the ninth-highest and 10th-highest winning percentages need to win two straight games to advance.


What’s next after the play-in?

Once the play-in winners, seeded No. 7 and No. 8 from each conference advance, the 2022 NBA playoffs will begin on April 16. Game 1 of the NBA Finals is June 2.

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NBA All-Star 2022 – A timeline of uniform designs from short shorts to 90s flare to sleeves and more

The 2022 NBA All-Star Game is the 71st edition of the midseason showcase.

While hosting the league’s biggest stars on one court has been a constant for several decades, save for 1999, due to the NBA lockout, much has transformed since the game’s beginning in 1951.

One change that easily catches the eye of viewers is the ever growing number of uniform combinations that have been worn throughout the years

The 2021-2022 season has seen its fair share of fashion statements. As the league celebrates its 75th anniversary, 123 different uniforms have been worn throughout the Association, with teams each receiving four jersey editions: Association, Icon, City and Statement. As if that weren’t enough, three of the league’s original franchises, the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors (then-Philadelphia) and Boston Celtics wore a fifth Classic edition that debuted in December.

In the fifth consecutive year of being outfitted by the Jordan Brand, All-Stars can add another jersey to their vast collection. But before that, here’s a look at how designs have evolved over the years.

1951: East 111, West 94
Location: Boston
MVP: Ed Macauley, Boston Celtics

All-Stars playing for the Eastern Conference sported a simple white jersey with blue accents, while players for the opposing conference wore the inverse in the inaugural game. The belt is perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the uniform, as elastic waistbands were not standard on basketball shorts during the 1950s.


1960: East 125, West 115
Location: Philadelphia
MVP: Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors

The design during the 1960s was similar to that of previous years. The additions of the East or West conference designation on the front of the jerseys was a distinction that became common later in the decade.


1967: West 135, East 120
Location: Daly City, California
MVP: Rick Barry, San Francisco Warriors

The latter end of the aforementioned decade brought in a new trend of honoring the city in which the game was played. The Warriors’ City edition uniforms served as the first source of inspiration for the new look.


1972: West 112, East 110
Location: Inglewood, California
MVP: Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers

Players donned Lakers-themed outfits when the team’s then-home arena, the Forum, hosted the All-Star Game.


1980: East 144, West 136 (OT)
Location: Landover, Maryland
MVP: George Gervin, San Antonio Spurs

Washington was the final team to have its jerseys serve as the model for the showdown between the two conferences.


1985: West 140, East 129
Location: Indianapolis
MVP: Ralph Sampson, Houston Rockets

This style was quite popular, as the design was used for six consecutive years. It was even brought back after a short hiatus for the 2003 and 2004 All-Star Games.


1991: East 116, West 114
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
MVP: Charles Barkley, Philadelphia 76ers

Arguably the most memorable All-Star uniforms were created in the 90s, starting with this version that was in use from 1991 to 1994.


1995: West 139, East 112
Location: Phoenix
MVP: Mitch Richmond, Sacramento Kings

Another recognizable design is a product of the past century. The vibrant colors were a stark contrast to the typical red, white and blue uniforms that were used for the majority of the All-Star Games’ existence.


1997: East 132, West 120
Location: Cleveland
MVP: Glen Rice, Charlotte Hornets

The decade was capped off with another well-known trend for the league’s midseason showcase. Players from the Eastern Conference wore their home jerseys, while those from the Western Conference wore their road uniforms.


2003: West 155, East 145 (2 OT)
Location: Atlanta
MVP: Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves

This fan favorite design from the late 80s reemerged for two years in the early 2000s.


2004: West 136, East 132
Location: Los Angeles
MVP: Shaquille O’Neal, Los Angeles Lakers

The first style of the new millennium was distinguished by the diagonal lettering, but it was also the last time this format was used. Grand opening, grand closing.


2007: West 153, East 132
Location: Las Vegas
MVP: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

Cursive font made its return to the front of All-Star jerseys for the first time in over two decades, but this uniform was only used once.


2014: East 163, West 155
Location: New Orleans
MVP: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

Sleeved jerseys were quite a fad upon being introduced in the 2013-14 season. They were also seen during the NBA’s Christmas Day slate, along with making an appearance at the All-Star Game. This style was only used once.


2015: West 163, East 158
Location: New York
MVP: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

This minimalist design mirrors that of the All-Star Games’ earliest jerseys. It was the first time that black and white were the primary uniform colors, with the former representing the Western Conference and the latter being used for the Eastern Conference. Players’ first and last names were also printed on the back.


2018: Team LeBron 148, Team Stephen 145
Location: Los Angeles
MVP: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

This was the first year that the league adopted its current format, making East and West designations a thing of the past. Similar to the style used in 2015, black and white differentiates the two squads, but the logo of each player’s team is prominently displayed on the front.

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