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Sue Bird keeps Team USA door open, too

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Some days, Sue Bird feels as if she’s on borrowed time. Other days, the WNBA’s oldest player considers a potential fifth Olympics in Tokyo.

“Only three years away,” she said Sunday.

Bird, like her former University of Connecticut teammate Diana Taurasi, sounds more optimistic now about playing for Team USA again than she did last year. They could both be on the 2018 World Cup team.

Taurasi said last week that she would keep playing for the national team as long as she’s asked, with one likely caveat. Bird would have to suit up, too.

“It’s easy to group us in a lot of ways,” Bird said before scoring a season-high 21 points in a Seattle Storm loss at the New York Liberty on Sunday. “I’m sure the decision will be kind of, sort of together, but at the same time, separate.

“In terms of health and where you are in two, three years, it’s tough to say. I can also tell you that, I think I can speak for both of us when I say, if we’re both playing at a high level and feel good and we’re asked to represent our country, it would be really hard to say no.”

Bird turns 40 in 2020, when she will be nearly three years older than any previous U.S. Olympic basketball player. She said before Rio that 2016 would likely be her last Olympics.

Bird, who missed one game in Rio with a left knee sprain, underwent left knee surgery for a fifth time in April. But she’s averaging a career-high 8.1 assists per game this season, leading the WNBA through seven games.

New U.S. coach Dawn Staley, who replaced Geno Auriemma (Bird and Taurasi’s college coach), said in March that it was her gut feeling that both Bird and Taurasi would make a run for Tokyo. Staley, Bird and Taurasi were teammates at the 2004 Athens Games.

Bird said she hasn’t had any discussions with Staley and no meaningful ones with women’s national team director Carol Callan the spring.

But Bird and Taurasi may well be needed. The U.S. team of 12 in Rio included just three primary guards — Taurasi, Bird and Lindsay Whalen, all 34 years and older.

“If it comes down to it and the team needs me in whatever capacity I’d oblige,” Bird said, according to The Associated Press. “I don’t think if you’re asked to represent your country you say no to them.”

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Johnny Gregorek runs fastest blue jeans mile in history

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Johnny Gregorek, a U.S. Olympic hopeful runner, clocked what is believed to be the fastest mile in history for somebody wearing jeans.

Gregorek recorded a reported 4 minutes, 6.25 seconds, on Saturday to break the record by more than five seconds (with a pacer for the first two-plus laps). Gregorek, after the record run streamed live on his Instagram, said he wore a pair of 100 percent cotton Levi’s.

Gregorek, the 28-year-old son of a 1980 and 1984 U.S. Olympic steeplechaser, finished 10th in the 2017 World Championships 1500m. He was sixth at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.

He ranked No. 1 in the country for the indoor mile in 2019, clocking 3:49.98. His outdoor mile personal best is 3:52.94, ranking him 30th in American history.

Before the attempt, a fundraiser was started for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, garnering more than $29,000. Gregorek ran in memory of younger brother Patrick, who died suddenly in March 2019.

“Paddy was a fan of anything silly,” Gregorek posted. “I think an all out mile in jeans would tickle him sufficiently!”

MORE: Seb Coe: Track and field needs more U.S. meets

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U.S. Open mulls no fans, group flights, coronavirus tests as decision looms

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Charter flights to ferry U.S. Open tennis players and limited entourages from Europe, South America and the Middle East to New York. Negative COVID-19 tests before traveling. Centralized housing. Daily temperature checks.

No spectators. Fewer on-court officials. No locker-room access on practice days.

All are among the scenarios being considered for the 2020 U.S. Open — if it is held at all amid the coronavirus pandemic — and described to The Associated Press by a high-ranking official at the Grand Slam tournament.

“All of this is still fluid,” Stacey Allaster, the U.S. Tennis Association’s chief executive for professional tennis, said in a telephone interview Saturday. “We have made no decisions at all.”

With that caveat, Allaster added that if the USTA board does decide to go forward with the Open, she expects it to be held at its usual site and in its usual spot on the calendar. The main draw is scheduled to start Aug. 31.

“We continue to be, I would say, 150% focused on staging a safe environment for conducting a U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on our dates. It’s all I wake up — our team wakes up — thinking about,” Allaster said. “The idea of an alternative venue, an alternative date … we’ve got a responsibility to explore it, but it doesn’t have a lot of momentum.”

An announcement should come from “mid-June to end of June,” Allaster said.

All sanctioned competition has been suspended by the ATP, WTA and International Tennis Federation since March and is on hold until late July.

The French Open was postponed from May to September; Wimbledon was canceled for the first time since 1945.

There is no established COVID-19 protocol for tennis, a global sport with several governing bodies.

“Everybody would agree to the fundamental principles, I’m sure: protecting the health of participants, following the local laws and minimizing the risk of the transmission of the virus,” said Stuart Miller, who is overseeing the ITF’s return-to-tennis policy. “But then you have to get down into the specific details.”

One such detail: The USTA wants to add locker rooms — including at indoor courts that housed hundreds of temporary hospital beds at the height of New York’s coronavirus outbreak — and improve air filtration in existing spaces. Also being considered: no locker-room access until just before a match. So if anyone goes to Flushing Meadows just to train, Allaster said, “You come, you practice, and return to the hotel.”

The USTA presented its operational plan to a medical advisory group Friday; now that will be discussed with city, state and federal government officials.

MORE: Olympic tennis: Key questions for Tokyo Games in 2021

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