Nazr Mohammed has never given himself a clever nickname or made a rap CD, and he would not know how to start a superstar feud. Shaquille O'Neal he is not. \nBut Mohammed has, unexpectedly, become perhaps the best Eastern Conference center not residing in south Florida. Or the most consistently productive one, anyway. \nMohammed, the Knicks' starting center, is averaging career highs of 12.5 points and 9.3 rebounds. He is also shooting 53.2 percent from the field. His hustle and grit have helped the Knicks (16-13) to first place in the Atlantic Division. And his steady production has put him squarely in the conversation about who should back up O'Neal in the All-Star Game on Feb. 20 in Denver. \n"I think he's in that discussion," Isiah Thomas, the Knicks' president, said. "I know the thing that the coaches value the most is his work ethic, the way he approaches the game every night and the way he does the dirty work inside the paint. He's not flashy; he's effective. He's just a worker." \nO'Neal, of the Miami Heat, is a lock to start in the All-Star Game; he leads the voting for Eastern Conference players. Detroit's Ben Wallace will be a favorite when the coaches select reserves in late January, and Cleveland's Zydrunas Ilgauskas will receive heavy consideration. \nMohammed cannot match the popularity or the flair (or hair) of Wallace, but he may be the best qualified to be O'Neal's backup in Denver. Mohammed has recorded 11 double-doubles, as many as Houston's Yao Ming; among centers, they are second only to O'Neal, who has 17. \nEntering Thursday's games, Mohammed was third among centers in rebounding average, behind Wallace (12.6) and O'Neal (10.8), and second in offensive rebounds (3.8), also behind Wallace (4.6). Wallace also had the edge on Mohammed in blocked shots, with 2.89 a game to 1.17. But Mohammed was ahead of Wallace in scoring average (12.5 to 9.9), field-goal percentage (53.2 to 44.3) and free-throw percentage (74.3 to 47.2). \nMohammed has scored in double digits in 18 of 29 games this season; he has not missed a game. Wallace has scored in double figures in 9 of 19 games; he served a six-game suspension for his role in the Nov. 19 brawl at the end of the Pacers-Pistons game. Mohammed, ever unassuming, chuckled softly when the possibility of being an All-Star was mentioned. \n"Hey, shoot, keep passing it on, keep the buzz," he said. "I can't lie. I would be ecstatic. Just my name being mentioned is a great achievement for me. I wouldn't know how to react. I wouldn't have thought I'd have an opportunity like that." \nEven Knicks officials have been pleasantly surprised by how far Mohammed has come since they acquired him in February in a three-team deal. Although Tim Thomas was viewed as the key pickup, "I wouldn't have made the deal without Mohammed," Isiah Thomas said. \nMohammed's name was not even placed on this year's ballot for the All-Star Game. The omission was understandable. Mohammed, 27, was not considered a full-time starter, and only once has he averaged more than nine points or seven rebounds in a season. As the preseason came to a close, he was still battling Vin Baker for the starting role. Both struggled in October, but Mohammed struggled less and won the job. \nIn the first two weeks of the regular season, Mohammed often looked passive and sometimes lethargic. It was not until mid-November when Mohammed, a devout Muslim, revealed he had been fasting for Ramadan and had lost seven or eight pounds. His game took off after that. In the nine games from Nov. 13 to 30, he averaged 15.8 points and 11.2 rebounds. Those are All-Star numbers. \n"There's Shaq and there's Yao, and after that I think it's pretty much a coin toss, depending on what type of center you want," Mohammed said. "On a team like ours, my job is to defend, rebound and when my teammates get me the ball, I'm able to score when I'm given a chance. And we're winning games. If you want a center like that, that's me." \nStephon Marbury regularly looks for Mohammed when he drives the lane, and his dump-off passes have led to easy shots. \n"Everybody, they're getting more and more confidence in me," Mohammed said. \nIf the All-Star nod comes, Mohammed said he would be grateful. But he is pleased just to be starting every night for a first-place team. It is a refreshing change after spending years on the bench for the rarely relevant Atlanta Hawks. \n"It's the opportunity that I've been waiting for, for a long time," he said. "I don't want to ever take steps back, so I'm just trying to improve, get better and eventually, one day, it won't just be consideration or buzz; it'll be like, `Hey, he deserves it.' So that's my goal."
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
ANOTHER SCANDAL: Searches focused on several riders, including Dayer Quintana, a source said, while the two being held were reportedly a doctor and physiotherapist French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced. The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century. Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody. Laurens added that the two
Former MLB pitcher Wang Wei-chung has signed the biggest contract with a local team in Taiwan’s professional baseball history, the Wei Chuan Dragons said yesterday. The 28-year-old left-hander signed a five-year US$2.08 million contract with the Dragons, team chairman Hsu Wen-fang told a news conference. It is the biggest contract in the CPBL’s 31-year history, surpassing a three-year, US$1.36 million deal Lin Chih-sheng signed in 2016 with the CTBC Brothers. Although the overall value of Wang’s deal set a new record, his average monthly salary of NT$990,000 (US$33,886) is lower than Lin’s pay of NT$1.2 million per month in 2017