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Update on the latest sports




NFL season kicks off in Philadelphia


PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The NFL season kicks off Thursday night when the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles host the Atlanta Falcons.


Before the Eagles begin their quest for a repeat, they’ll have one more celebration. The first Super Bowl banner in franchise history will be unveiled in front of a sellout crowd that waited seemingly forever to witness the moment.


Coach Doug Pederson and his veteran players have preached throughout the offseason the importance of moving forward and focusing on the present if the Eagles are going to have any chance of becoming the ninth team to repeat as Super Bowl champs.


Nick Foles will again be under center, as Carson Wentz still hasn’t been medically cleared following surgery last December to repair two torn knee ligaments.


The Eagles have a tough opponent in Atlanta. The Falcons were 2 yards away from knocking the Eagles out of the playoffs in the divisional round, but Matt Ryan’s pass to Julio Jones fell incomplete in the right corner of the end zone.




Serena Williams tries to reach 9th US Open final


NEW YORK (AP) – Serena Williams will attempt to reach her ninth U.S. Open final when she faces No. 19 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in the semifinals Thursday night.


Williams, who turns 37 in a few weeks, is bidding for a seventh U.S. Open championship and 24th Grand Slam singles trophy overall, which would tie Margaret Court for the most in tennis history. Williams already owns the record for the most in the professional era. Sevastova will be participating in her first semifinal at any major tournament.


The second semifinal features No. 14 Madison Keys of the U.S. against No. 20 Naomi Osaka of Japan. Keys has won all three previous head-to-head matchups, including when she came back from a 5-1 deficit in the third set at the U.S. Open two years ago and a straight-set victory at the French Open this year.




Braves try to get back on track


UNDATED (AP) – Rookie phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. will try to get the first-place Atlanta Braves off to another fast start when they open a four-game series at Arizona. Acuna hit his eighth leadoff homer Wednesday in a losing effort against the Red Sox. He has 24 homers in all, including 17 since the All-Star break.


On the heels of a three-game sweep, Anibal Sanchez looks to get Atlanta back on track when he faces and Zack Greinke (GREHN’-kee) in a matchup of NL playoff contenders.


Elsewhere on a light Thursday schedule:


– The Cleveland Indians attempt to move closer to a third consecutive AL Central title when they begin a four-game series in Toronto tonight. Cleveland’s magic number is down to eight. Shane Bieber starts for the Indians against fellow right-hander Sam Gaviglio.


– Stephen Strasburg pitches for Washington when the Nationals open a four-game series tonight against the visiting Chicago Cubs. Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs. There’s no telling who the Cubs will use as their closer. Brandon Morrow held the job through the All-Star break, but hasn’t pitched since then because of a biceps injury. Pedro Strop has gotten the ball in the ninth inning lately, but Steve Cishek and Justin Wilson also could fill in.




AP source: Haslem, Heat agree on 1-year deal for 16th season


MIAMI (AP) – A person with knowledge of the negotiations says the Miami Heat and Udonis Haslem have agreed on a one-year, $2.4 million contract.


The person spoke to The Associated Press Thursday on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been signed.


Haslem is one of the team’s captains, and he and Dwyane Wade are the only two players to appear on all three of Miami’s NBA champion teams. Haslem becomes the 19th player under contract going into training camp, one shy of the preseason maximum – and the Heat are waiting to see if Wade will take that last available spot.


This will be Haslem’s 16th season with the Heat. He appeared in 14 games last season, all of the bench.




NY Islanders get tax break for Nassau Coliseum project


(Information in the following story is from: Newsday, http://www.newsday.com )


UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) – The Nassau County Industrial Development Agency has approved tax breaks for the New York Islanders’ planned renovations at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.


Newsday says completion of $9.95 million in interior upgrades would allow the hockey team to return to Uniondale for three years while a new arena at Belmont Park is developed.


The Islanders plan to split their schedule between the Coliseum and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center over three seasons. They’ll play at least 60 games at their former home arena during that period.


An attorney for BSE Global, which operates both venues, says the improvements need to be completed by Dec. 1, when the Islanders host the Columbus Blue Jackets in Uniondale.


The work’s being funded with a $6 million state grant and $3.9 million from the team.